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Sunday, September 6, 2015

Negotiating Out of the Labyrinth of Conflict

CONFLICT often makes fools of the wise and nonsensical of the logical; but that’s people and perceptions for us. So commonly we can look at the same animal and one will see a horse, another a donkey. I’m embarrassed about the sorts of animals I’ve seen in many conflicts I’ve been involved in. And yet, I know there are other times when I think I’ve been seeing the animal correctly. But many times conflict cannot be helped at the impasse because there is no neutrality.
The trouble is we’re not talking truth; the only truth in view is we see differently.
It’s so hard negotiating conflict.
Differing views and competing interests confound both parties. But differing views and competing interests are simply barriers for caring hearts to overcome. How wonderful it is when care superintends over difference; when care becomes the mutual interest. But it has to start from the party in the strongest position. (What faith it would involve for the weaker party to take the mature stance!) And if neither party is strongest, one must start in faith that the other will follow. We will find that the party that starts the armistice is the more mature or peacemaking party (which is simply another form of strength).
The following problems emerge:
1.     If the latter party doesn’t reciprocate, the care of the earlier party to commence the truce may stall.
2.     If the more powerfully positioned party either doesn’t appear to care or they simply polarise into the ‘right’ the negotiation may stall.
But if the party that starts a truce can persist in faith there remains hope for reconciliation. Persistence often pays. And if the more powerfully positioned party (by role and/or by numbers, or by another form of power differential) doesn’t act humbly, and care for their adversary, they may easily inflame the situation. Righteous anger is indignation; a form of indignity is done to the weaker party and all they may have left is an outburst. I have experienced this through a bullying isolation that leads to such a response. And I’ve seen it in others, too. We all hate perceived injustice.
Care Goes a Long Way
If we are concerned for the best results — win/win for everyone — we will care for the other person, which means we will care for their truth. This is not about assuming their truth in favour of ours, but it’s about bringing both truths together.
It’s about letting two truths exist in tension without judging either. With two minds open we have the perspective to see another’s truth in a way that will add to our own.
Love is the allowance of truth. It permits space for the truth to emerge and rest.
If what is true for one cannot be true for another then it cannot be the truth. It still needs refining. But where people are fair and reasonable they’ll see with an openness of heart that entertains another person’s image of events — for what they see, they see.
A little care goes a long way.
With just a little care, and with willingness not to clasp onto our truth, we might give another’s truth space enough for a just hearing — to listen to them. And if we can’t do that, perhaps we might have the humility to admit we can’t, and allow and cooperate with a mediation process if it’s available.
Love makes a way for negotiating out of the labyrinth of conflict.
Love believes, protects, trusts, and hopes; it endures. It’s prepared to do everything necessary that reconciliation might be achieved.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

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