Tuesday, November 5, 2019

How to Manage Conflicts

In Bible and Life, the head of a Happiness Research Center gives his ideas on resolving conflicts. Many who come to his center have got tired of fighting and before separating want to give counseling a try; many find their way to the research center as the last resort.

Many problems  in society, politics, religion,  in families, and between individuals, Prof. John Gottman, a well-known researcher who has studied divorce and marital stability, says that 69% are long-lasting issues— disposition, personality, way of thinking, convictions, values, dreams, etc. and are not easily changed.

Consequently, it is not a question of solving but of managing. The professor sees the problem, not as a superficial difference of viewpoint but a remembrance of emotion. An example would be someone married for some years. Whenever there is a meeting of the family clan we have the raising of voices and conflict. The wife would like the husband to understand her feelings, he is always trying to cover over the problems that arise and tries to get all to relate peacefully. His efforts refused, denied, misunderstood, and he gets angry and becomes frustrated.

In the counseling session, he is asked can one change their personality? Which viewpoint is correct, more objective, reasonable? He replies this is not a matter of who is right or wrong or personality difference but two different subjective realities and both with their own particular viewpoint seen correctly. So what does one do in such a situation?

He introduces us to Anatol Rapoport a psychologist who made a study of wars that resulted in peace or destruction. In his viewpoint, conflict is a fork in the road, one to destruction and the other win/win and peace and he maintains this is not a question of luck.

In Rapoport's view, it's a very simple formula that can be applied to all relationships and even between husband and wife. You put your own position on the back burner and listen to the other, looking into their eyes and fathoming their hearts— getting rid of trickery, looking for the other's weak points, trying to better the other, but rather really to understand the other.

You have each person express the opponent's position as clearly, vividly and exactly to a degree that the person hearing the words will show gratitude for understanding the position. You then list the points of agreement that would not be generally understood as such and mention what you learned from the other. It is only after this, one has the freedom to rebuttal or criticize.

In Korea, would it not be wonderful to have this approach to handle our problems: conservatives and liberals, North and South, Japan and Korea, political party squabbles. Would it not be a blessing if they had the well being and happiness of the citizens in mind?  Listened to each other, sympathized with the other's opinions while expressing one's own and learning from each other, always with the good of the citizens in mind?