There’s a nice comment in Peter Adler’s Eye of the Storm Leadership, on the nature of conflicts, how they arise, escalate, and how we have or lose the windows of opportunity to deal with them.
They begin with some actual or impending sense of injury: a grievance, a complaint, a sense –- rightfully or wrongfully — of being victimized. Demands are made. When the offers are rejected, threats, bluffs, and brinkmanship ensue. As the fight escalates, matters move to action. People demonize each other. Communication channels sever. People rely on lawyers, handlers, and press agents. Fights ripple outward with unintended consequences and sometimes surprising revenge effects. Others, with or without an immediate stake in the fight, are swept into the vortex. Coalitions form. Battles become more tactical, heated, and fearful. All the while, there are little punctuations and hesitations, moments when the window of a possible resolution opens and closes. Those are what we are listening and scanning for.
In conflict, we see people at their worst. In resolution and reconciliation, we see them at their best. The core matters — creativity, imagination, and forgiveness – – are possible in every conflict. Don’t be put off or sidetracked by emotional intensity. Down below there are solutions that can be excavated.
p.46 -47 of the print version; p.8-9 of the “Into the Fray” section on the CD version.
There’s both a generic and a cultural element to this:
- the first is that it’s astonishingly easy to slide into misperception, misapprehension, and – especially – to adopt the victim role in imagined wrongs; and that we can and need to be watchful for the opportunities to open the doors and windows that have been abruptly closed – though there will be times when this doesn’t work; and
- the second is that – in addition to the personal, intrapsychic aspects of how and why we slide into conflicts and real or imagined slights – there will be cultural dimensions as to how such events can be managed, not least involving the preservation of face, the use of intermediaries, to greater or lesser role of social norms, the capacity to sever relationships without great social cost (in those more individualistic worlds), and the role and power of alliances.
The intriguing thing about a statement such as this is how disarmingly simple and obvious it is . . . and yet how impossibly difficult it appears at the time.