Last week’s post on What Makes A Good Blog Topic originally included THREE possibilities.
At the last minute (well, I still had 23 minutes to go before it launched at midnight) I pulled this third one, wanting to see if it might not grow it into an actual post. Here’s how it originally went:
I could write about the importance of conflict.
While watching the Democratic Debate (the one from Nevada) last week, I was also reading a little book that’s been on my shelf for far too long: Frances Moore Lappé’s You Have the Power: Choosing Courage in a Culture of Fear. (You might remember Lappé from her earlier book, Diet for a Small Planet.)
Anyway, this little book is a treatise on the importance of dealing with conflict.
With the contentious TV debate going on in the background, I read about how those who fear conflict are often the ones who most want to vote in an authoritarian leader, someone who will deal with the conflicts they don’t want to tackle, someone who will take care of them.
That was frightening. Important. Provocative. But I can’t think of what else to say about it.
Well, I can now.
Following publication of my memoir in 2014, At Home on the Kazakh Steppe: A Peace Corps Memoir, which was all about cultural difference, I was particularly conscious of the myriad stories of cultural difference (CD #1) right in our own backyard. Remember the one on breast feeding six-year-olds? That was fun.
That’s the nice thing about the cultural differences I was so interested in: they are often quite funny (at least they are after a few
hours days weeks have passed following my initial gasp). Receiving a roasted sheep’s head as a token of esteem? Finally learning (after two years) that if I just left a little food on my plate, no one would rush to fill it up again? Yes, there is no clean plate club in Kazakhstan.
Will writing about conflict — the core of the Civil Discourse (CD #2) theme of my new book, LEAPFROG: How to hold a civil conversation in an uncivil era — offer the same opportunities to laugh? I doubt it, but really, we’ll only find out once I get into it.
I read about a very interesting conflict this week. Here’s the headline from The Washington Post of February 27:
A middle school requires kids to dance with anyone who asks. One mom is fighting for her daughter’s right to say ‘no.’
The two sides are pretty clear cut. But it’s a headline. Let’s hear directly from (first) the principal of Rich Middle School in Laketown, Utah.
“We want to protect every child’s right to be safe and comfortable at school,” he said in an interview with the local paper. “We believe in that 100%. We also believe that all children should be included in activities. The reason for the policy as we have had it (in the) past is to make sure no kids feel like they get left out.”
And from the mother of the 11-year old student involved. She took to her facebook page in defense of her daughter to write this opening paragraph.
A kid at school that makes my daughter uncomfortable asked her to dance at the school dance on Valentine’s Day. She tried to say no thank you, and the principal overheard and intervened and told her she’s not allowed to say no and that she has to dance with him.
Paying attention to PROCESS rather than specific CONTENT, I’ll ask only for your response:
Did you take sides right away? Did you have curiosity to know more? Something else? What was your initial, instinctual response?
If this had been your daughter, how would your response have been different?
I’ve written that there are two common responses to conflict.
- We believe we know best. So, we arm ourselves with evidence and prepare for battle.
- We find conflict scary. Concerned we might offend or, worse, feel humiliated, we stay out of conflict as much as possible.
Lappê’s book has challenged me to see a third response. We have much to gain from conflict, she reminds me.
- We can learn new ideas, new options;
- it can expose our biases and challenge our assumptions;
- it can strengthen the initial relationship, and
- it can breed creativity.
I’m very proud to say that I believe my LEAPFROG model will help us do just that.
How about you? How might we find the creative in this particular conflict?[box] LEAPFROG, my tiny handbook for handling those tricky conversations we all face, is now available in digital and paperback format.
I’m participating in Amazon Affiliates, so your purchase through my website will enable me to make a wee bit more and not increase your cost at all. The above link takes you to the LEAPFROG page on my website (not yet accessible directly) where you can learn more about the book. To skip that page and go directly to the book’s page on Amazon, click here. Thank you.[/box]