Moving from one CD to another

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.

  1. We believe we know best. So, we arm ourselves with evidence and prepare for battle.
  2. 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? 

Thanks to blogs.wsj.com for the image accompanying an article entitled “How I learned to embrace conflict at my company.”
[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.

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17 Responses

  1. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    Random thoughts: I do remember the idea of breast-feeding 6-year-olds . . . eek!

    And, adding a thought to your blog post just before the bell tolled at midnight . . . don’t think I’ve every done that, but maybe tweaked a little at 5:45, just before the gong.

    I was allowed to say “No” to dancing at school because, you know, Mennonites don’t dance. HaHa!
    Marian Beaman recently posted…Cherries in the SnowMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I wonder how many hearts you may have inadvertently broken back then, Marian. On a more serious note, this incident happened in Utah and I’ve learned it’s a state-wide policy so am of course intrigued to know what the connection may be to the biblical teaching of the woman being submissive (certainly never saying No) to the husband. I know it’s only grade school; but wonder if they’re trying to instill a certain mind set here. Just my initial hypothesis.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Moving from one CD to anotherMy Profile

  2. Ally Bean
    | Reply

    Tricky topic. As an adult I believe we all have the right to say NO but thinking back on tween dances we girls had to say YES to any boy who asked us to dance. The chaperones considered it a learning experience but it was often uncomfortable for me, an introvert.

    So do I have a point? MAYBE. Which might be the road we need to walk in today’s difficult political climate. I remember an episode in Northern Exposure [old TV show] wherein Ed, one of the regular characters, just said “maybe” to everyone and he mitigated hard feelings by doing so.
    Ally Bean recently posted…Who Goes There? Chatting About The Names We Use When Blogging + A Poll QuestionMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I loved Northern Exposure! It tackled topics that other TV shows wouldn’t touch. I loved the one they did on hunting. Funny and poignant at the same time.

      As for this dilemma, what struck me most was how adamant both sides felt, how right (righteous?) and how that is so often what gets us stuck. AND, I can see me getting just as self-righteous for either side, given the right context. I hoped to follow this story, but haven’t been able to find any follow up to it. I was so hoping they’d sit down together and hear each other and probably come up with a compromise. Lessons to be learned by the daughter, no matter what’s decided, seemed to me.

      Thanks for weighing in, Ally.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Moving from one CD to anotherMy Profile

  3. Susan Scott
    | Reply

    It’s a bit tricky I guess, but the child has the right to say ‘no’ and her right must be upheld. The teacher could have asked the child her ‘reasons’ for saying no, but that of course has its own difficulty if the child is afraid of speaking her mind. The teacher could have been aware that there was a difficulty with that particular boy and it’s responsibility to find out more. It seems unlikely that the child was being willful …

    Interesting post thank you – always a good idea to have bias and assumptions challenged.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hello Susan, It’s so good to have you back again. I always love your insights. And yes indeed, there is so much room for conversation in this one. I can almost see it as a classroom-wide conversation, with both sides actually hearing the other. Wouldn’t that be a great learning opportunity for these grade schoolers.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Moving from one CD to anotherMy Profile

  4. Tim Fearnside
    | Reply

    Hey Janet, this is a great case study, since both sides appear to be well- intended, and there wouldn’t appear to be much middle ground. While I get where the principal is coming from, I personally think it’s an easy call— i.e., the girl should have the right to say no, for many good reasons. But, how to get creative? That’s tricky. Perhaps there could be some sort of mixed-partner, group-type dance or activity incorporated into the dance that would ensure equal participation by everyone. Perhaps there might be an opportunity to educate the school administration or community on the many reasons that forcing girls to succumb to male requests/demands for attention and/or intimacy is so incredibly wrong and dangerous. And if all that fails, there’s always the boycott. Organize supporters to boycott the next dance until the policy is changed, while respectfully informing the school’s admin of what they are doing and why. ‘Am interested to hear any other suggestions 🙂 – T

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hey Tim. Good ideas all. It’s fun to note how we’d not have the opportunity to even explore these options if the conflict hadn’t arisen. Educating the school does sound needed, IMO, too. I’m getting attached to my new hypothesis, the one that arose while I was replying to Marian’s comment above. I’d love to hear the principle, or better yet the Superintendent who supported the policy, explain it in light of expecting girls to just go along and the whole Biblical submission idea. Of course, they also have dances where girls ask boys. (Back in my day, this would never have come up, for my church didn’t allow me to dance. Did yours?). Thanks for adding your voice here.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Moving from one CD to anotherMy Profile

      • Tim Fearnside
        | Reply

        I don’t recall any dances at our church, for young or old. I can’t say I view this with any real sense of loss 😉

        • Janet Givens
          | Reply

          Dancing, theater, movies (separate from theater), cards, and one more I don’t recall were all part of a “pledge” we had to take for things to abstain from. Of course sex, alcohol, and smoking went without saying. Lots of “Nos” in the churches I grew up in. And they seemed to get stronger the bigger the church. So, when I finally discovered what I’d been missing, it was a pretty easy choice. No real anguish over it.
          Janet Givens recently posted…Moving from one CD to anotherMy Profile

  5. Laurie Buchanan
    | Reply

    Janet — Another great thought-provoking post. I can see the good intention of both sides. But when push comes to shove, the young lady has the right to say no.

    My elementary and junior high schools had square dances where EVERYONE got allemande lefted, allemande righted, and do-si-do’d until we couldn’t see straight.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I appreciate your input Laurie. Wouldn’t it be a good lesson if kids were taught how to take No for an answer? That they needn’t take it personally. That “No” is, (as my favorite fundraising guru once said) “a perfectly acceptable adult word.” That it says more about the person saying it than it does about the person hearing it. Again, how I wish these school district leaders could hear some of these ideas.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Moving from one CD to anotherMy Profile

  6. Carolyn
    | Reply

    Leaving a bit of food on your plate to avoid more being piled on? Oh yes, I remember that well in Arab countries. I discovered that the Chinese solve it by giving you plain rice – leave that and you don’t want any more food.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I was not raised in one of those clean plate families as many have, yet it still seems a permanent part of my psyche. No waste. Hmmm. Leaving food is so counter-intuitive. Thanks, Carolyn.
      Janet Givens recently posted…How Do We Know What We Know?My Profile

  7. Janet Morrison
    | Reply

    Hi, Janet. I immediately sided with the mother in the school dance examp!e you gave. As an adult, I certainly wouldn’t want to be forced to dance with someone who made me feel uncomfortable. I would feel the same way about an 11-year-old girl — or child of any age. This story made my skin crawl. It sounds like the girl had a gut feeling about this particular boy. I think all children should be taught to follow their gut feelings. Thank you for another thought-provoking blog post!

    • Carolyn
      | Reply

      I do agree. Children need to learn about the world but not at the expense of their sensitivities in a situation like that

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Glad to have you Janet. I was very pleased actually to find this conflict; I only wish I could find updates on how it’s turning out. What did the school board do with the mother’s complaint?
      Janet Givens recently posted…How Do We Know What We Know?My Profile

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