Four Orientations Needed To Help Move From Conflict to Cooperation

Recently I was on a call with a colleague and a couple heads of two groups that have been in some conflict together. They share a mission, a good one. They also have some background that has interrupted shared trust. The slippery slope from there, as is true in so many circumstances of the times we live in, is reactive blame and vitriol.

What to do? What to point to?

Well, I rely on good questions to create engagement and encounter. I rely on formats to hear and to be heard. To interrupt stuck patterns. I would suggest that the complexity of the times and circumstance require us all to develop skill for leaning in, even when we’ve reached exhaustion points that have us clamoring to run away.

With this group, and the early plans for bringing a larger group together, I found myself saying that four orientations are needed by people who will participate. These are in ways, very basic — yet their practice is a deep and significant commitment.

Acknowledge Mystery — It does much good to enter a gathering in which conflict is apparent to acknowledge that there will always be some that is unknown. It’s rarely as simple as rearranging facts to get certainty and perfect cooperation. Most anytime that certainty minimizes or eliminates mystery, I would suggest we’ve lost an essential and skilled bridge to connection and trust.

Be Willing to Back Up — This is pretty connected to mystery. I keep telling people we have to be willing to go upstream, closer to the headwaters. Sometimes, such a backing up changes the landscape of what we are able to see. Backing up, however, isn’t a promise for resolution. Rather, I’d suggest it is a helpful disposition, sometimes just to create a bit more added compassion and grace together.

Explore Genuinely — OK, these are sounding quite similar. They are each woven and nuanced into each other. Exploration implies curiosity. It also implies invoking some wonder and some wander together, not just “winning” a point. It implies a commitment to find ourselves, and land ourselves in the story and perspective of another. It doesn’t require complete agreement. The exploration, and it’s energy of uncalcifying, is its own harvest that helps build and restore connection.

Bring Something Downstream — So often, I encourage bringing back an experiment. Or an improvement. Or a practice to begin. Something to try. Often something small that is infused by a shared wonder together — this can help unstick a group from judgement and hurt, pointing the way to journey and wellness. It can be the simple that changes everything. It can be the simple that moves the interior and reorients us to an exterior.

Well, I care about these people. I care about the conflict that they are in. I care most about their shared mission, and finding ways to restore their orientation to a gifting mutuality. To honor the conflict, but then to get on. It’s what all of us are trying to do, trying to reclaim what points us to the majestic view.

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