Dr. Ken Larsen
The world is divided by those who think they are right.
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” This familiar quote from Gandhi is an invitation to make our world a better place. There is a parallel saying and that is “let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” Like the Miss America contestants, we all want peace in our world.
I suggest that the absence of peace is conflict. While there is little I can do about global conflicts, there is a lot I can do with the conflicts in my relationships. One place to start is in our conversations with one another. Dialogue is the free exchange of ideas and experiences. It is a chance to see the world through the eyes of the other. The most fundamental element in dialogue that leads to mental health and happiness is to make understanding the foundation. Too often interpersonal communication ends in disagreement and conflict based not on understanding, but on a lack of understanding. Each person in the dialogue has a legitimate point of view. If one tries to deny the experience of the other and try to control the other to see things his way, we have a serious breakdown in the conversation and in the relationship. If we agree that disagreement has no right to take place until understanding has been achieved, we are making progress. It’s OK to “agree to disagree” but in order to have any integrity it is important that each person understands the point of view of the other before moving into disagreement.
Dr. Glasser talked about “external control” as a major contributor to conflict, unhappiness, and breakdown in relationships.
The way we circumvent external control is to recognize that I can only control my behavior. When I slip into seeing my point of view as correct and the other’s point of view as wrong, we have a problem. This may result in an “Archie Bunker” kind of diatribe against the other, insisting the other is wrong while you are right. The result of this behavior is a growing hostility and enmity toward the other.
I mentioned earlier that there is little I can do about global conflicts. But, if I understand the value of dialogue as a way to see the world as the other sees it, maybe I can have a small impact on what is going on in our world. If I recognize that the diatribe often associated with condemning the other is based on ignorance I can make an effort to become informed. I can seek to see the world as the other sees the world. And in that process, maybe I can find a common link that we can build on.
In my own life, I have made an effort to get to know others who are different from me. With respect and healthy curiosity I have found truly delightful opportunities to see the world through the eyes of people from other cultures and background.
We know that our attitudes and behavior toward others is based on our experience and beliefs about the other. When we allow our beliefs to be formed by the unexamined opinions spoon fed to us, we have given away something of ourselves. When listening to a media report on the “news” can we ask ourselves the simple question, “Is this true?”, or is it pre-digested propaganda that we have accepted without question?
In our relationships and in our world, there are differences. That is what diversity is all about and it is good. There is also common ground that we can use to build bridges between us. Let’s build some more bridges.
For a short two minute video illustrating these principals click here