Alright friends, so the 48 Hour Golden Rule is a method devised by the Residence Life of Emory University (or maybe not, but I learned it there so I'm gonna roll with that anyways). It is a standard by which disagreements can be judged and handled, and it seemed like too much of a foundational piece of advice for me not to drag your consideration into this.
Hand-delivered to myself and 32 other impeccable staff members during training for the upcoming year, this rule was placed on a list of others that constituted the RA job we were accepting. As we muddled through the lines and dove into group conflicts and what we would do with issues on or off the job amongst one another, the sheet before us provided a simple answer.
"If you don't approach someone to work out a disagreement in 48 hours, just let it go."
I have a tendency to hold onto my issues. Scared of confrontation as my tiny tumbleweed being is, it's not in my nature to race for resolution. I let things stew until I reach my boiling point, then I burst and regrettable sentence after regrettable sentence decides to pour out. I would rather pretend as if my problems are a non-issue until I physically can't anymore. I would rather deny any semblance of irritation until what I'm shoving down starts to move out into other areas of my life.
I know that conflict and confrontation make me nervous. I'm aware of the weaknesses with which I have to grapple in this area. What I struggle with is knowing and still being unsure of how to fix my issues. With all the time in the world, I convince myself that there is another day for this conversation; it's just not today. I would rather fake niceties than resolve the pent-up anxious anger that clamps down on my head.
The 48-Hour Golden Rule approaches the problems that I have in two very important ways.
The first way it tackles my issues is that it allows me to place a mental timer onto my stressful interactions. It is like conditioning myself to respond quickly at the optimal moments to address disagreements. By keeping myself from waiting too long to speak up, I am confronting the issue at its freshest and my best. The rule reminds me that if I let my issues go unmentioned, they will hurt me and others in the long run. I can't just ignore what hurts, and I can't just sit and stew in tension. In either of those cases, the only outcome for me in the long run is that I simply snap.
A time limit of 48 hours does not strip me of my ability to mull over and process, but it does keep the incident in my line of sight so that I can't suppress it instead of dealing with it. It gives me long enough to cool off, to think, to come to my own conclusions, to prepare what I want to say, and to seek out the person with whom I feel the conflict. It is a measure of time that is neither too short nor too long. The conflict can fit right in the middle without becoming overrun or tucked away.
The second way the rule helps me in this situation is that it teaches me the other side of conflict resolution: letting it go. Some conflicts cause me stress. They sit on my heart just the same as any other, and they build in all too similar a fashion. The difference comes from the fact that in these cases, trying to open up a dispute about the issues is not worth it in the slightest. Maybe it's just me being petty. Maybe it's my misunderstanding. Maybe it was just an off day for me. Who knows? This golden rule forces me to take a step back and consider whether or not these conflicts are really worth fighting for. When I take the time to pick my battles, I give the ones I discuss more value and save myself personal stress and anxiety over issues that shouldn't have mattered in the first place.
So there you have it! The 48 Hour Golden Rule in its full glory. To you, dear readers, I recommend giving this a try. It truly is a conflict resolution possibility that can work wonders. To the incredible staff I have the pleasure of working with this next year, thank you for being so open and willing to bring me onboard, and I promise I will put this rule to good use. Or, you know, try to stay out of trouble. Whichever happens to come first. Here's to the 48 Hour Golden Rule for many years to come.