By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Content Agency
Q: Everywhere I go it seems people are talking about respect, diversity, and issues like world peace. I’m just trying to live from paycheck to paycheck. I see no way I can make any difference in social issues. Do you think it’s possible for one person to make a dent in these problems?
A: Yes the cliche about doing good while doing well is about making a dent in big problems. Every day we have the power to make social problems worse or make social problems better. We can start world peace by creating more peace in ourselves and in the people we encounter.
We all get discouraged when we read the news. An unexpected consequence of this pandemic is we have seen the best and worst in people. Some people reacted by creating a breakthrough vaccine through collaboration. Some people decided all experts were untrustworthy.
Pay attention you’ll find many situations daily in which someone upsets you. In that moment you have a choice to react in a way that creates peace or creates conflict.
Peace does not mean becoming an office doormat. Peace means side-stepping drama and power struggles in favor of results. If someone in a meeting tells you, “You are wrong,” you could attack back. You could also say the magic solution words, “You may be right and I want to balance the budget what do you suggest?”
When someone criticizes us responding with, “You may be right,” puts a full stop to power struggles. When people publicly criticize us they are unconsciously starting a war. There are many ways to give effective feedback but public criticism is not one of them.
Be prepared that the first time you calmly say, “That may be so..,” in response to criticism the other person will look confused. Almost no adult can resist a war if invited. Be abnormal and resist! In that pause of disorientation you can suggest you work together to create results (which benefits you both).
A physical war is a hard reality when the alternative is domination by an unacceptable force (think Nazi Germany). Perhaps as our species matures we’ll discover better options but right now there are times physical wars are tragic necessities.
Emotional wars are optional. We can develop interpersonal skills to collaborate, create peace, and create solutions. In fact, the diversity of viewpoints during conflict is essential to innovation. When two opposing viewpoints integrate into a higher level of thinking breakthrough ideas are the result!
Peace starts by solving wars within our psyche. Being able to listen to opposing viewpoints within ourselves is uncomfortable. Being able to integrate these conflicts into a higher level of functioning is enlightenment!
If we can face our darker, less appealing, and destructive inner selves we can manage nearly anyone in our outer world. As a corporate consultant ironically I find that most conflict exists among individuals with the exact same emotional issue.
If we can make peace with ourselves few people will ruffle our feathers. We will not defend against accusations we secretly fear are true. Keep in mind the magic words, “That may be so…” We all have darker moments where any weakness anyone can criticize us for is true. Defending our self-esteem against these comments never works. Giving up our ego in favor of results is always profitable and peaceful!
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker. She’s the author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” (Hay House, 2006).