Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Let's Talk it Over...Dealing with the conflict of lIfe

I talk about race, because we don’t like to, I talk about men/ women relationships and the role each of us play in the good and bad of them, because we don’t like to, I talk about bad parenting, because we don’t like to… nowadays, I’m taking a lot of heat, which is cool because the heat is toughening my skin like leather, the only way we grow as a society, as a people is to really communicate with each other, not only about the things we like and have in common (which we do all the time), but about the issues we don’t like. The stuff we shy away from, the stuff we call conflict.

The first thing we need to understand is that conflict, in itself, is not bad. The good thing about conflict is it brings issues to the table. For example, I facilitate something called Conversation Café (to learn more about it go to their website: As a skilled facilitator, I modified the process just a tidbit. As opposed to not having a say, I have a say, but I also play devil’s advocate. The purpose of doing so, is that over the years I’ve learned people are reluctant to share their true deepest views. What people generally do is share a, somewhat neutral view, in hopes they can slide their perspective in without having to support/ defend it. However, by playing devil’s advocate, it pushes that button, and thus comes the real. Which is good, that’s how healthy debate evolves, really sharing your views.

Look at the issue of race, it is probably one of the most hot button topics in the US, and what do we do as a country? Shy away from it. An example, the US finally has a black President, and during his campaign, instead of his position on politics, instead of something he said, instead of something he actually did, there was a huge uproar over something the preacher of his church said. What the preacher said really isn’t as important as what I noticed. I walk in diverse circles and the conversation sounded similar dependent the circle I was in. When I found myself amongst my white friends it was more of a, we need to move on/ hatred for his country/ he’s a racist type discussion, but something was different amongst my black friends. There was a sense we could relate to what was said and there’s a sense also, having this discussion with black friends there was validity to what he was saying. The problem is we never took the time to really make a “teachable moment,” as President Obama addressed it. He left the church, the preacher was demonized, and society went back to our divided segregated views.

In conflict there is something called “intractable conflict,” which essentially means if a conflict takes place for so long and not resolved it takes a life of its own, the outcome is negative for everyone involved. When we don’t discuss issues and allow them linger, in my mind, they become an intractable conflict. One ingredient to intractable conflict is they seem like they can never be resolved… need I say more?

There’s an attorney in the city I’m from, Louisville, named Brandon Lawrence, and he has a radio show where he talks about important social issues, but more importantly, and the reason I bring him up is the name of his show “Let’s Talk it Over.” Nothing gets resolved til we do so… til next time –The Intellectual1

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