Friday, August 03, 2012

Making our bets

Is there a bombproof method of transforming conflict from violent to nonviolent? We live in an argumentative culture, one that often features discounting approaches to conflict management because they do not feature guarantees or ironclad promises of swift and decisive success. But we are usually reduced to choosing from amongst methods that offer a chance of success, not contractual certainty. Indeed, if we look toward the full range of methods of managing conflict, we can never find that chimerical perfect way. Do we look to annihilate the enemy or heal each other?

The word ‘solution’ is too absolute, as in solving clearly defined mathematical problems.
--Johan Galtung (2004, p. 15)
We make bets. We buy a gun and we bet it's going to keep us safe. That may comfort someone right up to the moment it fails. Or we learn de-escalation skills and place our wager on our ability to talk down a person who is threatening us or others. Some rely on the police or lawyers to resolve tough conflicts. Some might choose mediation. Each of us has a style of conflict management that tends to become more informed and more effective as we practice it, but none of us achieve perfection or a 100 percent success rate, especially when we look at outcomes over a period of post-'resolution' time. Each situation is unique and we cannot know a perfect prediction method.

In some ways, then, it comes down to learning about odds and investing in what seems logical. Is my method generally successful or usually fraught with disastrous outcomes? Will I lose everything by relying on one method and ignoring all aspects of other approaches? Is my time well spent learning how to manage conflict instead of just trying to get ahead or instead of relaxing and enjoying life?

These are questions for everyone, every organization, every family, every community, and every nation. I'm betting on nonviolence and the research shows that is the most effective most often over a period of time. Clearly that research isn't sufficient, nor dispositive, but it is helpful. We need to look at interpersonal methods, at methods used in communities, and at methods of civil society in its frequent conflict with its own government. 

Galtung is correct; we cannot achieve permanent perfect resolution. We can transform destructive conflict into a creative constructive conflict with enough competent upkeeping. Conflict is forever; only the methods by which we manage it are up for review and revision.

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


Joe-Anybody said...

Nce article ... I wanted to share it... so I posted a link to it on my Facebook Page:

Thanks For Sharing Your Wisdom & Thoughts Tom!

Tom H. Hastings said...

Great, "Joe," thanks much. Global warming is here in Portland today! Stay cool, jewel.