Healing Your Conflict
Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors
Healing Your ConflictHigher wisdom can mend fences.
Conflict is a natural part of human life and social interactions and should not be confused with violence, which is the most dysfunctional way to handle conflict. Conflict derives from incompatibilities between two or more opinions, principles, or interests. Because conflict usually involves contradictory goals, resolution can occur when something—the goals or expectations regarding those goals—is changed.
In the classic book on negotiation, Getting to Yes, authors Roger Fisher and William Ury suggested that breakthroughs in conflicts come when positions are deconstructed and transformed into expressions of legitimate interests. Once disagreeing parties clarify their interests, they can reframe the conflict as a shared problem and, thus, see each other as colleagues working together to resolve that problem.1
Careful and respectful listening by all participants is required for this process to occur, continue, and be successful. When a party to the discussion makes an emotional statement or raises an objection, it is an opportunity to ask, “What is your concern?” The response may be rational or irrational, but either way, it must be heard and recognized as an insight that could lead to a key breakthrough.
The result of this process, whether resolving conflict or developing a policy to preempt conflict, is often an emergent solution that could not have been predicted at the start of the process. When a solution is sought at a higher level of consciousness than that which created the problem, it facilitates access to this higher wisdom.
Tom Atlee tells the story of an Indiana farmer who found his neighbor’s dogs killing his sheep. The too often way of solving such problems involved confrontation, threats, lawsuits, barbed wire fences, and, potentially, shotguns. This particular farmer had a better idea. He gave his neighbor’s children lambs as pets. This out-of-the-box solution established a win-win proposition: for the sake of the children’s adorable pets, the neighbors voluntarily tied up their dogs, and the families became friends.2
Johan Galtung, a Norwegian pioneer in peace and conflict resolution, made a career of finding what he called the fifth way, or fivers. Galtung recognized that every conflict has five potential resolutions:
- I win. You lose.
- You win. I lose.
- Negative Transcendence in which the problem is solved by avoiding it entirely.
- Compromise in which each wins by agreeing to lose a little.
- Transcendence, which produces a resolution above and beyond the problem.
Conventional politics seeks to resolve issues through compromise, which, at best, leaves everyone equally dissatisfied. In contrast, the transcendent fiver solution generates a positive feeling among all parties. The first step in bringing forth a fiver is the intention between two opposing polarities not to meet in the middle but to join forces and move forward together toward an optimal solution.
The power of Galtung’s fiver approach is exemplified in negotiations he mediated over a 55-year-old border dispute between Peru and Ecuador. What was the emergent solution to a polarized border dispute? No border at all! Today, the contested area is a thriving bi-national zone run by and for both countries, and it even includes a jointly administered nature park.3
This is holistic politics at its best because it involves the practice of evolution, seeking emergent both-and solutions that are beyond the dualistic either-or conflict.
- Tom Atlee, The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World That Works for All, (Eugene, OR: World Works Press, 2003), 85. Original Source for this reference in Atlee book: Roger Fisher and William Ury, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreements without Giving In (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. 1981).
- Ibid., 9.
- Alice Gavin, “Conflict Transformation in the Middle East: Dr. Johan Galtung on Confederation in Iraq and a Middle East Community for Israel/Palestine,” Peace Power 2, no. 1, Winter 2006, http://www.calpeacepower.org/0201/galtung_transcend.htm (accessed March 14, 2009).