Sometime I feel like Wally in Delbert and feel a little awkward. I got in a fight today with someone close to me and I don't know how to resolve it. I continuously think back to what the great Magliozzis' said in their 1999 commencement address at MIT, "do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?"

I ponder over this because I want to be both! I feel I am right in this situation and yet in the long term I want to be happy. In fact, I want to explain to the other person why I'm right so if this same conversation happens again they will understand my point of view and *ta-da* long term happiness.

But in reality this is not how things work. The Association for Conflict Resolution lists several methods for dealing with conflict as: "surrendering, running away, overpowering your opponent with violence, filing a lawsuit, etc." None of these sound remotely interesting (although running away and surrendering are all too easy options.) The Conflict Resolution Network list a few other methods such as: "creative response, empathy, managing emotions, mapping the conflict, development of options, negotiation, and broadening perspectives." Now these are getting closer to resolving the conflict.

It seems like what I need to do is follow a step-by-step process to introduce communication and listening skills into determining what is causing the conflict. Conflict resolution is not as easy as simply "convincing" the other person that you are right. It's a matter of listening even when it goes against all fibers of your being.

My dad the surgeon liked to joke around that his motto was, "when in doubt, cut it out." But I know his job was much more difficult than that. Determining what is the source of someone's pain is not an easy task, especially with troubles such as "chest pain" or other vague and hard to diagnose ills.

Being a good listener even when you don't want to means taking the Socratic approach to conflict resolution. According to my brother, Socrates would first question the other person and try to learn their frame of reference before launching any argument on his behalf. It is true that you have to understand the other person before you argue your side or else you end up debating things like: evolution vs. intelligent design. Both religion and science have two entirely different premises from which they build their argument and thus will never agree — their basic beliefs and thus their reasoning is different.

There once was a picture that hung in my grandmother's kitchen that said:

The wise old owl who lived in an oak,
the more he saw the less he spoke.
The less he spoke the more he head,
why can't we all be like that wise old bird?

It reminds us that we need to listen before we attack. In the Art of War, Sun Tzu says, "To understand your enemy is a valuable trait. To expose and use his strengths and weaknesses against him/her is vary valuable indeed." It shows once again that before you can engage any conversation you need to understand the person you are talking with and empathize with them in their approach to the conversation.

So instead of trying to get the other person to understand your point of view (the brute force approach) try to better understand their background, beliefs, and frame of reference so you can better navigate an equitable solution (the elegant solution.)

And remember the mantra, "non impediti ratione cogitatonis", or translated from the Latin, "unencumbered by the thought process."  Tom describes this mantra as thus:

If you repeat this mantra, what happens is everything slows down. Life slows down. Being unencumbered by the thought process allows you to identify and hear and see defining moments in your life, things that will change your life. Unencumbered by the thought process. You say it over and over again. And as everything slows down and begins to stop — we call these, by the way, moments of inertia.

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