The United States celebrates Thanksgiving tomorrow. It is one of my favorite holidays for any number of reasons including the three F’s – family, food and football! However, it is a day that can be so much more than that. There is so much to be grateful for as a country, as a people and as individuals. No matter our lot in life, somewhere someone is worse off than we are.
I don’t intend to minimize the issues we all face, the challenges of life, work, the economy, health etc. They are very real. Another factor in our lives is conflict. It seems like there’s conflict wherever we look these days. As a country we have just gone through a very long and highly charged election process which evoked a great deal of animosity. Chik-fil-A was another ‘line in the sand’ where you were ‘with me or you were against me’. Today the news is filled with coverage from the Middle East of the conflict in the Gaza strip. Of course one of the hottest business topics arising from conflict is the great “future of the Twinkies” negotiations. All of these conflicts have two sides. All of them have passionate believers on both ‘sides of the aisle’.
Believe me, I bring this up neither to rekindle nor fan any of the strong emotions in play nor to determine who is right or wrong in these conflicts. My purpose is to merely state that looking to resolve conflict(s) at any level provides the opportunity for even more reasons to give thanks. Where there is conflict there is no peace and where there is no peace it is harder to be grateful for what we have.
One thing that I know for sure is that conflict requires at least two differing sides or two different perspectives. My life has had its share of conflict – in which I have played a significant role…but not an exclusive role. These have been conflicts of both a professional and a personal nature. Conflicts happen. It’s what we do and how we handle them that is the key to resolution and peace – and therefore more reason to give thanks.
It is important in my experience that one of the most critical steps to resolve issues is to make every effort to understand the opposing – or conflicting – view. Notice I did not say agree with it. Understanding and agreeing are two distinctly different concepts even though they do not have to be mutually exclusive.It is important to see both sides.
What do you see in the above image? Do you see a man playing a sax or do you see a woman? If you saw just one of the images – either one – and walked away you might be in a position to argue that the picture was of just that image. We need to attempt to see the entire picture. We need to be open to other perspective.
A second key is to ask the question “What is my role in the conflict?” What do my beliefs, thoughts and actions contribute to the conflict? How have those beliefs etc. furthered the conflict? What can I adjust or alter to help achieve resolution?
It is unlikely that in any conflict either side is 100% right or 100% wrong. Our tendency is to point out the faults and blame of the other side – which is necessary. However, it is only fair and reasonable to look inward as well.
When we are able to combine a full understanding of the opposing view with a rigorously honest look at our own role in any conflict there is the chance – a very real chance – for conflict resolution.This of course assumes that both parties truly want a resolution. If both parties have a genuine interest resolution can be achieved.
There are certainly times when a mediator is a must – an independent third party that can sort through the emotion, the conflicting interpretation of facts and provide a ‘neutral’ view. Binding mediation is at times the only chance for resolution.
What I have come to realize is that I can control only three things – my actions, my reactions and my attitude. Any one that knows me is quite aware that I don’t have this perfected. They also know that looking to understand both sides of a conflict and to seek reasonable resolutions is always my aim. Only when I can do that do I have a chance to effectively resolve conflict.
It is my hope that I can get better at that. It is my hope that we all can get better at that. It is my hope that each of us makes the effort to resolve a conflict – no matter how small or big – on Thanksgiving day. Imagine if we all resolved even our smallest conflict. What would happen? Well, there would be even a small amount of increased peace to be thankful for. From their we could resolve our next smallest conflict. Soon the list would be a great deal smaller.
Wouldn’t that be a reason to give thanks!