It is often said that the “devil is in the details” and certainly this is often sage communication advice. Other times, especially during arguments, divorce mediation, and conflict in general, I would argue that the “devil IS the details.”
Consider these points of conflict that I have recently heard during mediations:
- You were late dropping off the kids last Saturday by 12 minutes — are you going to pick them up 12 minutes late to make up for that time next week?
- You told me three years ago that I need to be less flighty and here you go forgetting to pack the kid’s thermos in his backpack!
- He is such a hypocrite! How can he expect me to let him have the kids on Columbus Day when I went out of my way to be with them last Columbus Day to cover for him when he went out of town?
I can definitely relate to getting caught up in these ways of thinking in the heat of the moment. The rub is that calling people on their contradictions may feel validating but almost never leads to effective problem solving.
Weeds, Marital Problems, and Relationship Issues?
I was once co-mediating a divorce mediation with a great colleague, Nnena Odim, with a high conflict couple. Several sessions went by with the “devil is the details” type of discussions. Nnena stepped in at one point and encouraged them to “stay out of the weeds.”
To my surprise this simple statement made a world of difference. At one point, one of the clients said something like, “I know I need to try to stay out of the weeds. She is really driving me nuts but I want us to get this thing done. So, I’ve put a lot of thought in to this and I want to propose that…”
He got out of the weeds!
This line of thinking led him to pitch a new proposal that was focused on his future and the kids’ happiness and put aside some of the past points of conflict that were contributing to the mediation being so stuck.
There are times when the devil is in the details. There are other times that it is far better to stay out of the weeds.
Could staying out of the weeds help your marital problems?
What do you think of this communication advice? Please comment below!