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“Appeasement”, wrote one sage, “is like throwing steaks at a tiger in the hope that it will become a vegetarian.” While it’s probably true that we often don’t do enough to placate someone when a situation really needs it, it’s also a true that it’s easy to overuse it as a short-term strategy in a relationshjp, and it doen’t do anything to change the long-term outcome.

Placating someone by giving them what they want as a strategy isn’t the problem. But knowing how and when to use it can be tricky. I’ve noticed that in troubled relationships one of two things happens; one partner stubbonly refuse to adopt a conciliatry position, or they do the opposite it and seem unable to stand up for themselves.

Hence the words of wisdom about tigers and steaks. Letting someone’s unacceptable behaviour off the hook with placatory gestures has the potential to harm both of you.  Making a habit of giving in, or covering seething resentment with ‘niceness’, gnaws away at the ‘giver’ and does nothing to tell the ‘taker’ that their behaviour is wrong. The relationship can get stuck with an unhealthy habit, and it’s also a quick route to becoming a doormat (and you deprive the ‘taker’ of the opportunity to learn and grow, but that’s another matter).

It can be complicated though: Being able to use conciliatry language and gestures is an important social skill, and so is managing our emotions in order to do it. All too often arguments arise because we ‘won’t give in’, when common sense says that’s exactly what’s needed to provide an opening for constructive dialogue.

 

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