Photo by Boxing AIBA

Failing to establish mutual purpose when communicating or interacting with others will get you punched in the face

As a former Golden Gloves winning boxer, when I started doing a little boxing workout a few years ago I was not at all interested in competing or fighting. I had fought plenty of battles in the ring, learned what I needed to learn, and accomplished what I wanted to accomplish. I had nothing to prove.

I liked the idea of hopping in the ring and sparring with some of the fighters once I got into a little better shape, but it seemed like the guys at this gym went at it a little harder than I wanted to and I was perfectly content to just hit the bags and work one on one with a trainer.

But after some coaxing from my trainer, I agreed to hop in the ring, deciding that I would just tell my sparring partner that I didn’t want to go full blast and ask him not to hurt me.

After I put my gloves on and got in the ring my trainer brought in a brand new fighter with arms the size of my head. My heart sank. New guys tend to have a lot more to prove than experienced fighters.

Nonetheless, I agreed to go a couple of rounds. Before starting, I walked across the ring and told the guy light heartedly, “Hey, I’m old and out of shape. Go easy on me.”

I could sense the tension on his face, though, and it worried me.

My skills were far enough ahead of his to keep him at bay for the first round and a half, but as I allowed him space to work and practice, his swings became wilder and harder. I was careful not to hurt him and tried to keep him at a distance, but toward the end of the second round my lack of conditioning started to catch up with me and he eventually caught me with a hard looping punch to the face.

The punch was way harder than the light jabs I was keeping him away with and, as much as it rung my bell, it really just made me frustrated at myself.

I should have known better, I thought.

I turned away and bent over at my waist, putting my hands out to signal that I needed a second.

Now where I come from, if you knock a training partner silly, you make sure he’s alright and ready to start again before continuing.

I was afforded no such luxury.

He hit me again full blast while my guard was down.

My bell was rung pretty hard at this point, but I had no intention of knocking him out, so I verbally asked him to stop and walked out of the ring.

The situation could have easily been avoided if I would have trusted my feeling that we didn’t in fact share a mutual purpose, and opted out. My purpose wasn’t to compete or fight. I was there to learn. As a new fighter with little experience and a bunch of people watching him, his purpose was to prove his worth by knocking my head off of my shoulders.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve encountered similar scenarios in my relationships. Though the consequences were usually less stark and physical, they were often just as painful if measured in emotional terms.

Can you look back and see situations in your life where a lack of mutual purpose has led to problems?

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