Conflicts That Challenge Us

Woman

My wife told me something good today (first time ever, haha).  


There are three types of conflicts:


1) Between Man and Himself — these are our internal conflicts or demons (fears, anxieties, guilt, compulsions, and evil impulses) that we must conquer. 


2) Between Man and Man — these are conflicts we have with others and we must resolve them with either empathy, compromise, giving, and forgiveness or at the other end of the spectrum with fight or flight.


3) Between Man and His Environment — these are conflicts that are man-made or natural in our surroundings and may involve scarcity, harsh or destructive conditions, and obstacles to overcome with scientific and engineering problem-solving. 


I would add a 4th type of conflict:


4) Between Man and G-d — these are conflicts we have in trying to understand why we are here, what G-d wants from us, and “why bad things happen,” and involve our relationship and reconciliation with and service to our maker. 


Basically, these four conflicts are more than enough to keep us busy day-in and -out for our entire lifetime, and either we resolve them and go to the afterworld, or perhaps we have to come back to do some more work on resolving them again. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Silence Or Violence

Communication.JPeG

So when it comes to “Crucial Conversations,” they unfortunately frequently end in silence or violence.


When the “stakes are moderate to high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong” that’s when communication really seems to break down, rather than achieve their goals of working things out. 


Like when our lives are in danger and we have the adrenalin rush reactions to fight or flight, similarly with potentially “dangerous” communications, people become aggressive and abusive or shutdown and withdraw. 


When your afraid of a negative outcome, either you start hammering others with your ideas and opinions or you exit the conversation and seek safety. 


Either way, at this point, there’s no real common ground, negotiation, compromise, or win-win to be easily had…in this pressure cooker poor excuse of a dialogue, it can basically become a tragic win-lose situation.


Perhaps, that’s why there are mediators and neutral third parties that are often brought in to make people feel (relatively) safe again, help them be understood and to understand, and to find a negotiated peace or settlement. 


And what happens when even this doesn’t work and communication and diplomacy fails?


Well that’s when people and countries bring out the big guns and they essentially go to war to win what they hoped to achieve with dialogue. 


Now words are no longer the only choice, but all options are on the table, and that’s when benign words can quickly turn into more drastic or deadly deeds (aka the children reframe of “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never harm me.”


And there is always the thermonuclear option–people supported it with Japan in WWII and they say they would support it with a Tehran that violates the very generous nuclear deal they received.


Words are a prelude to a possible peace or an unwanted war. 


They can be the last chance to work things out the way we hope for.


And if words alone can’t resolve the issue, then blood and treasure is spent and spilt to resolve the otherwise unresolvable. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Kid’s Games, For Survival Mostly

Action Figure

Some nights, I dream of fighting and others of running for my very life.  

This last night, I woke up from the dream, and thought how these instincts of fight or flight are so pervasive in our lives, and even in our sleep. 

But more than that, we are literally from the youngest age, programmed for survival (of the fittest). 

Ok, here’s a simple hypothesis about kid’s play:  

Kid’s play is not just play, but rather the preparation through acting out of these basic human survival instincts.

At it’s core, kids games mimic the fundamental human tendencies of fight or flight. 

Think for a second of some of the most popular games that kids play…the ones that mostly have been around forever, and kids from the youngest of ages gravitate too.

Tag — Running after from someone else running after you. 

Hide and Go Seek — Running to hide from someone looking to find you.

Play Fighting — Fighting an opponent to see who is stronger and can overcome the other. 

Action Figures — Often superheroes and villians that once again, fight each other.

Dress Up — Girls often dress as the beautiful princesses to be admired by boys who are in turn dressed as (macho) heroes that seek to protect them. 

Video Games — The most popular ones, first-person shooter (fighting) and racing (running away, faster than anyone else, and over the finish line or into the safety zone). 

Whether we are playing games, sleeping and dreaming, or going about our daily life activities, make no mistake, we are in survival mode. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Go Quick And Far

Africa
I love this African proverb that I heard recently:

 

“If you want to go quickly, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.”

 

When we’re alone, we are traveling “light”–we don’t have to worry about or help another person…we can go quickly.

 

However, when we go together with another, we have a companion and support, and can endure more and go much farther.

 

In life, going it alone…is more of a “flight” response. When you have to run, you get away as quickly as you can.

 

In the movie Last of the Mohicans the fleeing male character yells to the woman, “Stay Alive! No matter how long it takes, I will find you.”  They disperse, each one moving as speedily as possible to survive.

 

Similarly, when we have to “fight,” there is power in numbers. We are always stronger and more capable as a team.

 

Already from The Three Musketeers, we acknowledge the familiar refrain of, “All for one, and one for all.”

 

Similarly, when a military force advances it does so in strength with coordination and in unison, but when it is under severe attack and is retreating, often it does so chaotically, running with “every man for himself” trying to save as many as possible.

 

Overall, while we need the strength of unity and the speed of an agile runner, in the end we have to have faith, hope, and perseverance to survive.

 

Ernest Hemingway said, “The world breaks everyone, and afterwards some are strong at the broken places.” 😉

 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Outrunning The Needle

Outrunning The Needle

This nice gentlemen who works in the medical profession was telling me a funny story today.

He grew up amidst a collection of small villages in El Salvador.

The person who gave the vaccinations to the children used to go to the school to administer the medicine to them.

When the kids saw him coming, they would run out of the school, through the school yard, over the fence, and all the way home to try to avoid the shot.

He also said that the school personnel would chase them to their home to bring them back…one way or another, they were getting the dreaded needle.

It reminded me of when I was a little kid in the pediatrician’s office, and the doctor was pulling out a long needle to give me a shot, and I hopped off the table, and ran for my life.

I ran out of her office, past the nurse’s station, and into the welcoming arms of the patient reception area.

But the doctor and nurse caught up to me as well and brought me back for my shot too.

It sort of reminds me of the saying, “You can run, but you can’t hide.”

In life, it really doesn’t matter whether we want to do something or not.

When the time comes to face the challenges that await us all, even if you try to ignore it, avoid it, or run away from it…it will eventually catch up to you.

Maybe it’s worth a run sometimes, if you can avoid an unnecessary fight, but if it is something you have to face, like your medicine, you might as well just stay and take the needle like a man/woman and get some cookies and ice cream afterwards. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Dan4th Nicholas)

Smartphones, Dumb People

Smartphones, Dumb People

On the Street in Washington, D.C., there is this circular sign on the ground.

It says: “Look up! Watch where you are walking.”

This is a good reminder, especially on the corner, right before you step off and possibly walk into some ongoing traffic.

People get distracted walking and even texting while driving and they can have big accidents because of this.

But an article by Christine Rosen in the Wall Street Journal takes this notion quite a bit further.

She proposes that people are so busy on their smartphones and tablets that they are either “oblivious to their surroundings” or more likely to want to film emergencies rather than get involved and help someone in trouble.

She has examples including in December 2012, when a freelance photographer took a photo of a man run over by a train instead of trying to help him off the tracks.

However, I am not convinced that it is the computing devices that make people into “apathetic bystanders” or “cruel voyeurs” any more than the salons in the Wild West made people into alcoholics, gunslingers, and patronizers of prostitutes.

Let’s face it, people are who they are.

Things do not make us do bad, but lack of self-control and base impulses, poor moral upbringings, brain chemistry and brainwashing, and psychological problems and disorders cause people to behave in antisocial and immoral ways.

If people weren’t filming someone being attacked on the subway, then very likely they would be running out at the next available stop or changing cars as soon as they could get that middle door opened.

Those helpful people, good samaritans, and even heroes among us, are not there because they left their iPhones at home that day, but because their conscience tells them that it’s the right thing to do, and perhaps that they would want someone to help them or their family member if the situation was reversed.

People like to blame a lot of things on technology, but saying that we are “losing our sense of duty to others because of it” is absurd.

The technology doesn’t make the person; the person makes the technology!” 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

>How To Cope When The Boss Is A Bully

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We are living in tough economic times, and according to a recent news article, even those who have jobs are often feeling the pain.

USA Today, 28 December 2010, features a cover story called “Bullying in the workplace is common, hard to fix.

The subhead: “One in three adults has been bullied at work” – based on research conducted by Zogby International.

This reminds me of the poster “Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten,” since the old schoolyard bullying is faithfully carried over to the “adult” workspace.

How unfortunate for our employees and our organizations—because abusive leaders not only harm employees through ongoing intimating and demeaning behavior, but ultimately they bring down organizational morale, innovation, and productivity.

It’s like poison that starts with the individual bully and spreads—permeating from his or her human targets (our precious human capital assets) to chip away bit by bit at the core of organization’s performance.

According to the article, the bully often behaves in subtle ways so as not to get caught:

“Purposely leaving a worker out of communications, so they can’t do their job well

Mocking someone during meetings, and

Spreading malicious gossip about their target”

To further protect themselves, bullies may exhibit the pattern where they “kiss up and kick down.” Therefore, the higher ups may close their eyes to the abusive behavior of the bully—as far as their concerned the bully is golden.

By menacing their employees, bullying bosses spread trepidation amongst their victims and prevent them from telling anyone—because their targets fear that there will be “hell to pay,” in terms of retribution, if they do.

So bullied employees react by withdrawing at work, calling in sick more, and trying to escape from their tormentor by finding another job elsewhere in the same organization or in another.

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, “slightly more than 60% of bullies are men, and 58% of targets are women.” But generally, the sexes tend to prey on their own: “Women target other women in 80% of cases. Men are more apt to target other men.”

For employees who are victims, professionals offer four basic strategies, which are adapted here. Of course, none of these is ideal, but all of them give people a way to cope:

1) Talk It Out—it may be wishful thinking, but the first thing you want to try and do is to talk with the bully and at least try and reason with him or her. If that doesn’t work, you can always move on to strategies two through four.

2) Fight—document the abuse and report it (e.g. up the chain, to the C-suite, to internal affairs, the inspector general, etc.). Like with the bully in the playground, sometimes you have to overcome the fear and tell the teacher, so to speak.

3) Flight—leave the organization you’re in—find another job either internally or at another outfit; the focus of the thinking here is that when there is a fire, you need to get out before you get burned.

4) Zone Out—ignore the bully by waiting it out; this may be possible, if the bully is near retirement, about to get caught, or may otherwise be leaving his/her abusive perch for another position or to another organization.

Experts point out that whatever strategy you chose to pursue, your work is critical, but the most important thing at the moment is your welfare—physical, mental, and spiritual. And your safety is paramount.

As a human being, I empathize with those who have suffered through this. Additionally, as a supervisor, I try to keep in mind that there are “two sides to every coin” and that I always need to be mindful of others’ feelings.

Finally, know that challenging times do pass, and that most people are good. I find it comforting to reflect on something my grandmother used to say: “The One In Heaven Sees All.”