Unhealthy Conflict

John Adams discouraged it early on:

There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.

George Washington spoke against it in his Farewell Address:

…the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it… A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

And, yet, here we are.

Resolving conflict doesn’t work when it’s approached from a position of: “I’m right. You’re wrong. So I’ll take my ball and go home.” That’s third grade stuff… and it carries into adulthood. Similar people with similar capabilities tend to make similar decisions given similar data.

The key to collaboration and moving forward is for each side to – in the words of Stephen R. Covey – ‘seek first to understand, then to be understood.’ To look at issues from the perspective of the other viewpoint. To take an empathic position of truly walking in another’s shoes.

There are four steps to creating shared meaning, which is the key to shifting awareness and igniting forward movement in unison:

1) Inquiry – Actively seek to learn your beliefs
2) Advocacy – State what I believe
3) Rapport – Create shared language
4) Intention – Agree to desired outcome and actions

The way for government leaders to get past budgetary starts and stops is to seek new perspectives. As long as members of Congress are more concerned about reelection than focusing on the greater good, there will continue to be playground disagreements… and nobody gets to have fun on those days.


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