How Do We Understand “The Most Intractable Conflict”?
Last night, I walked out of a discussion of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Many times during the first two hours, I was teary-eyed and overwhelmed by the lack of compassionate listening–the third ear listening that transforms conflict. I became resigned, even among a group of conflict resolution professionals, and I had to remove myself before I lost the ability to deliver my message responsibly. Surprisingly, it was in this emotional response that I was able to find my compassion for human ignorance, naivete, and ego. We all went to learn, yet we had preconceived notions of how that would and should occur. Very rarely (if ever) will everyone’s expectations be met in a group, and so the conflicts began.
ACTION ONE: DEFINTE THE CONFLICT.
I disagreed with some of the participants about the purpose and manner of discussion.
ACTION TWO: IDENTIFY THE INTERESTS.
I wanted an expert to make the issues clearer for me. I hoped to envision solutions. I thought we might speak more about how to facilitate resolution. I expected more love and compassion. I feared (and still fear) there is no hope…for Gaza, for the Ukraine, for racial unity, for humankind…
It seemed that others in the group had varying interests. Several wanted to be the experts. Some wanted to observe or learn passively. Some probably believed they were contributing critical information. Some were afraid to admit they were under-informed, biased or afraid.
Some of our most challenging ways of being were at play in that room, including mine. I (sort of) took my toys and went home when I didn’t feel comfortable anymore and saw no likelihood of change. Instead of “toughing it out”, I went down the street with the friend who had accompanied me. We continued the conversation over drinks in a more welcoming space.
ACTION THREE: PLAY WITH THE POSSIBILITIES.
If I could have these conflicts resolve in any way possible, there would be more discussions that make us a little uncomfortable. We will begin to master conversations that generate solutions. We will become less afraid to explore difficult issues because we will feel safe among intense emotions–and each other. We will learn that the breakdowns are followed by breakthroughs (when we refuse to counterattack). We will commit to powerful, innovative breakthroughs in peace and unity. We will embrace conflict, take the lessons we need from it, and release it to be something else. We will all live more freely and more powerfully in this world of abundance for all.
ACTION FOUR: CREATE THE FUTURE.
Huge conflicts involving multiple governments, religious institutions, militaries, and citizens will not resolve in an evening. It could take as many years to create relief as it took to cause the grief and unrest. But I can’t give up. I can start building momentum toward success by taking small actions each day:
- I will practice listening, even when I’m uncomfortable.
- I will practice listening and adding no comments of my own.
- I will practice listening for the messages speakers intent to deliver, even when they struggle.
- I will look for something I can love about everyone I meet.
- I will ask more questions and admit when I don’t understand.
What are you doing today to increase peace and unity? xo