Sunday, 15 June 2014

Dealing with difficult people: How to resolve conflicts and deal with stress

We all love to give advice to friends who face unusual situations. We tell them to be flexible and break down problems into manageable parts. We encourage them to listen, ask questions, and above all, to be patient. However, when we have to deal with uncommon problems ourselves, we often realize how little our recommendations are worth.

Legend has it that, one summer afternoon, precisely on his 60th birthday, Hammed went out of his house, looked at the sky, took in a deep breath, and sat down on the ground. When his wife returned from the market and found Hammed sitting motionless on the ground, she ran to him and asked him if he was sick.

To her surprise, Hammed answered that he was waiting for a white butterfly to appear. His wife did not understand what Hammed was talking about and was deeply alarmed. She tried to reason with him and convince him to go into the house and have dinner, but Hammed wouldn't listen. "It is written in the book," he explained.

On the following day, Hammed's five sons and three daughters came to visit him. One after the other, they attempted to convince their father to stand up and resume his normal life, but Hammed refused to move. To every question, he gave the same answer in a firm voice. He was waiting for a white butterfly to appear because it was written in the book.

Hammed's wife decided to ask friends and neighbours for advice. "One of them will surely know," she told her children. Nevertheless, when she inquired about the butterfly and the book, nobody was able to provide any useful information. A week passed and, on the first day of autumn, Hammed was still sitting on the ground in front of his house.

Increasingly worried, Hammed's wife called her eldest son. "If your father continues like this, I fear that he will fall sick and die," she said, "I want you to run to the forbidden woods, find Krishna, and beg him for help." Her eldest son obeyed and, three days later, he returned to the house, accompanied by Krishna.

"We have tried everything," Hammed's wife explained to Krishna, "we have asked him a hundred times to stand up." Hammed's children confirmed that their father always replied that he was waiting for a white butterfly to appear because it was written in some book.

One of the family friends shook his head and whispered to Krishna, "I think that Hammed has lost his mind. Is there anything you can do?" Krishna requested them to leave them alone, sat down on the ground beside Hammed, and looked intently at the sky, without saying a word.

An hour of silence went by and Hammed, intrigued, turned to Krishna. "What are you doing?" he asked. "I am waiting for a white butterfly," answered Krishna without looking at the old man. After a long silence, Hammed, puzzled, retook his questioning. "Why?" he wanted to know. Krishna ignored him, but Hammed insisted. "Because it is written in the book," said Krishna.

The sun descended in the horizon and, when the night fell, Hammed turned again to Krishna. "How long do you think that it is going to take before a white butterfly arrives?" he inquired. Krishna must have been asleep at that point, since Hammed had to repeat his question several times before he obtained an answer.

"That is also written in the book," retorted Krishna in a low voice. "For the pure of heart, a white butterfly appears within a day, but the waiting of the impure will be forever in vain." Since darkness was complete, Krishna could no longer see Hammed, but shortly after, Krishna heard him stand up and walk tiredly towards the house.

Krishna went away at dawn, leaving behind the presents that he had received from Hammed´s wife and children. Before his departure, they all asked him how he had managed to convince Hammed to resume his normal life. "I just confirmed to him that a white butterfly was coming," said Krishna, "and then I asked him if he was ready."


[Image by FreeCat under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]

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