Sunday, July 29, 2012

No tears, no white lies, no pain, honest gain

Do we want to hurt someone's feelings? If yes, this discussion is not germane.

Do we want to be dishonest? If no, this is equally irrelevant.

But if we need to work through a sticky wicket in which our honest communication with another is going to cause hurt feelings, we have a conflict. "The conflict consists in honesty and consideration apparently excluding each other" (Galtung, 2004, p. 12). This applies to those we care about personally and it applies to our conflicts with those we emphatically oppose and dislike.

A sketchy diagram of the general categories of options:

Here the standard Cartesian x coordinate is horizontal and goes from low honesty to high honesty, while the vertical y axis is low consideration for the other's feelings up to high care for the other's feelings. 1 is low honesty, low care for other; 2 is low honesty, high care for other; 3 is moderate care for honesty and other; 4 is high honesty, low care for other; 5 is high honesty, high care for the other's feelings. 

I hope we would agree that if the goal is constructive conflict, 5 is the ideal, in which we are frank and caring for the feelings of the other. Galtung notes that only with 5 will we have transcendence to constructive conflict, featuring authentic dialog. 

If nonviolent movements used this model, they would succeed faster. Every time we needlessly yell, label, vilify, insult or emnify the other, we cause pain and memory of that pain, and guarantee blowback or backfire and resolve to defeat us, which is Just Fine with some who themselves are so hurt or so immature that they cannot think strategically (Yay! We succeeded in hurting them! We'd rather achieve that than our stated goal!).

If we all used this model, even though it seems to demand the most time and effort, the results would be sustainable and stable to a far higher degree than we see.


Galtung, J. (2004). Transcend and transform: An introduction to conflict work. Boulder, CO: Paradigm.

No comments: