Yes, it’s tough to find an answer to conflict.
At present, the goals to finding solutions to conflict range from ‘winning and domination’ to ‘reconciliation and unification’. Counselors in schools and businesses, diplomats and mediators at the national level attempt to defuse conflict with these methods. But, do they solve it?
In the scenario of most conflict resolution, each opposing viewpoint gives up something until both sides are satisfied. But, is this really resolution? If there is an underlying ‘simmer waiting to boil’ that wants one’s own viewpoint to ‘win’, then the conflict is only on the back burner. To truly dissolve a conflict, a creative, radical approach must tempt both sides into a better, so-far-unidentified, solution.
New geometry. The typical approach to mediation begins with a straight line with the opposing viewpoints at each end. Each group/person gives up or modifies their viewpoint and moves toward the middle until each side is satisfied. In the new approach, use a triangle. Write the goal above it. Then, put each opposing viewpoint in a bottom corner. Clearly identify each side’s viewpoints. Then, toss them out! Work to find totally new viewpoints/solutions. Wipe out any lingering preferences for the original conflicting viewpoints.
To consider the importance of radical changes in viewpoints, read Can Dragons and Frogs Be Friends? The ‘soon-to-be dinner’ frog offers to help the dragon solve his problem. This is radical change #1. He is not treating him as the enemy. Then, he deserts the other frogs to help the dragon. Radical change #2, the frog is willing to stand alone.
Next, is the frog’s persistent offers to help the dragon which equals radical change # 3. He is determined to help him at all costs. This defies the usual interaction of dragons eating frogs. Radical change #4 happens when the frog willingly ignores, then disproves, the ancient forest legend regarding the inevitability of conflict. It is often the history, the past, that straitjackets finding a solution.
These radical changes on the part of the frog disarm the dragon. Recognizing the frog’s shift in attitude, the dragon shifts his perception of the frog and accepts his help. This is the dragon’s radical change #1. When a second dragon arrives on the scene and threatens to eat the frog, the first dragon defends and protects him – radical change #2. His defense is so thorough that the second dragon expresses gratitude toward the frog and does not eat him. That was definitely a radical change!
The success of this ‘higher viewpoint‘ mediation method is the willingness of everyone to completely give up the past – what others have said and done – and then recognize and prove what is good and useful about the ‘enemy’. This requires a lot of creative thinking and a true willingness to change. It usually happens when both sides are about to wipe each other out.
I admit this approach appears to be based on the “love your enemy” concept. But, it is not. Loving the enemy as an enemy, still sees him as your enemy. It is the gaining and holding a different viewpoint of him that causes the radical and positive change. This higher, better viewpoint is gained when the ‘enemy’ becomes a cohort, a friend, and someone worth knowing. With that radical change, comes the creative solution to conflict.