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Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Model to Help Relieve Conflict

How do you know if you are "quarreling about words" or standing up against false teaching? Which do most Christians spend more time doing? How about you? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1659).

"Quarreling about words" is one thing, "quarreling about personalities" is quite another. It has been pointed out that the health plan supported by President Obama was in substance some years prior crafted by Republicans who thereafter opposed the plan because it came to be associated with someone they detest. The following discussion will do nothing to alleviate such conflict.

Shirzad Chamine in his book Positive Intelligence  on page 172 illustrates "The Iceberg of Conflict."  At the tip of the iceberg is "POSITION."  Extending some distance below the waterline one finds "ASSUMPTIONS."   Forming the lower third and base of the iceberg are "ASPIRATIONS."  The idea is that where parties have different stances – say management versus labor – we often find set opposing positions in addition to destructive and false assumptions regarding the other party. Generally speaking, we should never presume another's thoughts, but forthrightly inquire about them. Finally, on the aspirational level, we find common human aspirations; for example, security. In our example, both management and labor are interested in short-term and long-term security not only for themselves, but for the company of which they are part. From this point of view, both can agree that they want the company and the individuals within the company to be secure and thrive. On an aspirational level, therefore, we find a naturally occurring circle large enough to include both parties.

Now in regards to religion, believers are predisposed to share many values and beliefs on the aspirational level. Even so, false assumptions and frictional positions can develop over time. It therefore behooves those who yearn for community to reaffirm their common values, beliefs, and aspirations.  From this powerful common perspective, they can explore assumptions and reassess the true significance of various positions. When it's not a matter of "personalities" – as in some middle school political food fight – "The Iceberg of Conflict" model provides a helpful way to clarify the matter.