Monday, June 24, 2013

Magic penny conflict management

Love is something if you give it away,
Give it away, give it away.
Love is something if you give it away,
You end up having more.

It's just like a magic penny,
Hold it tight and you won't have any.
Lend it, spend it, and you'll have so many
They'll roll all over the floor.

--Malvina Reynolds circa 1949
How do conflict forensics relate to Malvina Reynolds and her magic penny? In truth, very directly and very consistently. When a conflict is managed without the love, respect, and regard for the emotions and well being of the enemy/adversary/opponent, the likely outcome will be destructive and the likelihood of re-emergence of conflict again radically rises.

Louis Kriesberg and Bruce Dayton at Syracuse University have written the 4th edition of a once-skinnier volume, Constructive conflicts: From escalation to resolution, a book I taught from on back when the first edition was published in the previous millennium. Lou Kriesberg is emeritus now, and has a co-author now, but he just continues to keep me and my students informed and engaged in the sociology of group-to-group conflict transformation.

How can we finally settle social conflict so that it stays settled? Kriesberg and Dayton advise us to be sure that the settlement is generous, forgiving, and leaves all parties with at least some of their original goals met. "Conflict outcomes," they write, "are constructive insofar as the parties regard them as mutually acceptable" (p. 22).

Sometimes giving away what you are not required to relinquish, even to an opponent you've generally beaten--especially to an opponent you've generally beaten--is how you win even bigger because you remove the burning desire for revenge, or at least dampen it, lessen the intensity, and reduce the numbers of those devoted to vengeance. If you give it away, you end up having more.

Malvina Reynolds was both a product of her time and far ahead of her time. She wrote simple little songs (Little Boxes, It Isn't Nice, What Have They Done to the Rain?, etc.) with profound meaning. Born in 1900, she was denied a high school diploma because her parents opposed World War I, so she just earned three university degrees instead, finishing her Ph.D. in 1938 in Romance Philology. How simplistic. She turned that high school defeat into victory and gave us all something to sing about for the rest of her 77 years on Earth. Thank you, Lou and Malvina.

Kriesberg, Louis, & Dayton, Bruce W. (2012). Constructive conflicts: From escalation to resolution. (4th ed.) Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.


Kelly said...

Great post - thanks!

Kelly said...

Great post - thanks!

Tom H. Hastings said...

Thank you, Kelly.