virgin islands scene

There's nothing more dangerous than an idea if its the only one you have.
-- Mark Twain


The MONTHLY Motivator - January 2017


Alternatives to conflict

Conflict is a destructive way to address problems, on multiple levels. It can destroy relationships. It wastes valuable time and resources. And it has a way of perpetuating itself, even after the issue at hand is resolved.

There will always be disagreements, differences of opinion, and conflicting interests. However, those conflicting interests do not have to lead to actual conflict.

Sometimes conflict is the only choice. Most of the time, however, there are alternatives that are not nearly so destructive, that can be beneficial for all involved.

When the potential for conflict arises, too often there is the assumption that the various viewpoints and perspectives are in direct opposition to each other. Such an assumption provides a simple, compelling way to look at the situation. But rarely is that assumption accurate. Though the various perspectives may differ widely, they are not usually in direct opposition. Often there is quite a lot of common ground. Unfortunately, this common ground gets covered over by the differences.

At the outset, instead of focusing on the differences, seek to explore that common ground. Find substantive values, concepts, ideas and facts that everyone can agree on. This is not as out of reach as it might first appear. Even the most brutal conflict requires that its participants occupy a common battlefield. For example, if two armies are fighting to control a particular territory, there is something crucial they both agree on, namely, the value of that territory.

Fortunately, most conflicts today are not military fights to the death, yet every conflict shares the key element that all sides agree there’s something worth fighting for. So consider this. If there’s something worth fighting for, there’s something worth cooperating for. Look for the common ground.

Another regular assumption in adversarial situations is that it’s a “zero sum” contest, that one side must give up ground in order for the other side to gain anything. Again, this is often a gross oversimplification and sometimes there’s no truth to it at all. There may very well be a win-win outcome possible, where everyone benefits.

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--Ralph Marston

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