This is where Dana gets to share her thoughts about conflict resolution and collaboration as life unfolds around us. Some topics will include current events and how they relate to the Dana and her professional experience as a coach and conflict resolver.
After Charlottesville……What Can We Learn, What Can We Do?
Once again we’ve experienced violence fueled by insurmountable divisions channeled into hatred, blame and rage. A sense of helplessness and hopelessness seems to prevail. What can we do, we wonder, to prevent the anger spilling over into acts of aggression?
One answer is to try to understand what is really going on in a broad and informed way. First of all, consider who the people are who are so consumed with anger. People who are drawn to nationalism and other forms of extreme distaste for anyone who is ‘other’ tend to be people who have experienced great disappointment, alienation and feel marginalized in some way. They also have a tendency to process emotions in a binary way – good/bad, friend or foe, for me or against me – rather than in a more nuanced, complex way. Anger turns to hatred, fear to blame, alienation to violence.
When you bump up against someone like this, you can expect only one response – retaliation. History has much to teach us about the consequences, positive and negative, of countering this kind of aggression. When Germany was defeated in World War I, it was punished and humiliated by being forced to sign a statement of guilt, pay massive reparations and cede great expanses of territory. While certainly many forces were at play, it is not a stretch to assume that the humiliation they felt was a significant factor in the rise of Nazism.
More recently and more immediately relevant, in 1977 a neo-Nazi group sought permission to march through Skokie, IL, home to many Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. There was outrage and many believed the march should not be allowed. Long story short, the supreme court ruled that their right to march was guaranteed by free speech. However, by the time permission was granted, no one was very interested in it anymore. The group marched in a different location, very few showed up to protest, and the whole thing became a non-event. The person who had led the neo-Nazi group moved on to other things.
What are the lessons? Martin Luther King, Gandhi and many current thinkers, including Adam Kahane, author of Collaborating With the Enemy: How to Work with People You Don’t Agree With, and Otto Schwarmer, author of Theory U – Learning From the Future as it Emerges, would agree on some thoughts about how to respond in ways that lead to lasting positive outcomes:
How Can You Take Action?
Taking action is the best way to get beyond that sense of helplessness and hopelessness and become a part of the solution. Having the intention to contribute to healing the divide is a good place to start, but it may not be enough. It takes skill to participate effectively in dialogue with people who hold very different beliefs than you.
You can start acquiring those skills, e.g. active listening, suspending judgment, managing emotions, in several ways:
Please let me know what you think about this and, better still, let me know what you’re doing to contribute to making things better.