Conflict Resolution: The Third Side


I am starting a series on a topic that impacts every relationship – conflict resolution.

In this TED Talk, William Ury shares from his experiences as a conflict mediator and presents his approach to resolving some of the most difficult conflicts in our world.

I may not fully agree when he says that Abraham represents hospitality, but I do agree that when we focus on those things that unite us rather than those things that divide us, conflict resolution becomes much more possible.

In the weeks ahead, I will explore the five conflict handling styles described by Ken Thomas and Ralph Kilmann, which are:

  • competitive – I must win this argument
  • avoiding – I’d rather not deal with this
  • accommodating – You can have it your way
  • collaborative – Let’s see if we can find a creative solution
  • compromising – Let’s meet in the middle

Building Trust: The Role of Biology


Dr. Paul Zak researches the effect of oxytocin, sometimes referred to as “the bonding hormone,” in the realm of general human interactions.  His research indicates that oxytocin may have a strong impact on our ability to develop trust with each other.  In this TED Talk, he makes a very technical subject very easy to understand as he describes his research.

In his talk, he says, “We don’t need God or government telling us what to do. It’s all inside of us.”  I  have actually come to a different conclusion; I am amazed at God’s design, how He has hardwired us for connection and community.  

Who do you need to connect with today?  How can you use this information about oxytocin and how important it is to help you connect better with those around you?

Embracing “Otherness”: Appreciating Individual Differences


By Tasha M. Troy

When we own our story, we become able to hear and empathize with other people’s stories.  That empathy allows us to embrace our differences and become stronger as a community.

The challenge of diversity facing the church and other organizations today is the challenge I encounter on a smaller scale in my classroom on a daily basis, that is, creating a community from a collection of diverse individuals who start out as strangers on the first day of class.  My students are a very diverse mix of individuals in terms of: IMG_7071

  • socioeconomic background
  • profession and career
  • religion, beliefs, and values
  • passions and interests
  • cognitive strengths and weaknesses
  • learning styles and personalities

Many times the only thing they have in common is a desire to improve their English communication skills, but even then precisely which skills each student wants to work on varies.

Individual Differences

As an educator, I have come to embrace a view of humanity through the lens of “individual differences.”  In other words, I see each individual student as a unique makeup of strengths and weaknesses, learning styles, cognitive profile, and personality type.  I further believe that our unique makeup is part of God’s intentional design.  Pastor Rick Warren says in his book The Purpose Driven Life that “God never does anything accidentally, and he never makes mistakes.  He has a reason for everything he creates.”  That includes everything under the umbrella of “individual difference.”

A Diverse Community

This brings us back to the question of creating community with all this diversity.  It has been said that Sunday morning is the most highly segregated time of the week, and I have observed that most people tend to avoid diversity assuming that under such circumstances, cohesion and community will be extraordinarily difficult if not impossible.  However, I have found that it is possible; my students often state that the diversity of the class is a major asset, one of the key benefits of being in this educational program. Therefore, I would like to share a few strategies I have found effective in creating a sense of community within my classroom:

  • present shared goals and shared mission regularly
  • identify and activate individual strengths
  • identify and (gently) manage disruptive personality quirks
  • provide opportunity for individual expression
  • use a combination of small group and large group activities

These strategies can be applied in a variety of contexts, anytime a diverse group of people are coming together for a common purpose.

Take It Deeper

I believe diversity is one of God’s greatest gifts to us.  I am sure you will find, as I have, that we have much more in common than not, that your life will be enriched, and that the Kingdom of God will be furthered as you embrace diversity in your own life.

If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions on Fridays.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net

A Response to the Events in Ferguson, Missouri


As I have been following the reactions to the Grand Jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri, regarding the case of Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, my heart has been troubled. In my Facebook news feed, I hear the voices of liberals and conservatives, of Black and White (and Hispanic and Asian); I hear voices calling for peace, respect, and safety, and I hear voices crying out in anger, frustration, and sadness.IMG_0269

It is not my intention to respond to the Grand Jury decision; I know the members of that jury were privy to information that is not available to me, and I have to trust that they made the best decision given the information at their disposal. Neither is it my intention to criticize those who are protesting and calling for change and reform; I see that there are things within our society that are broken, that are not working as we think they should.

It is my intention to use my unique position, situated between people of different races and socio-economic status, to try to bring greater understanding to all sides of the issue and to find a way forward that encourages justice for all. There is more to the story of the social injustices in America, and we as a society need to hear it.

I recently read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, a book purportedly about success, which opened my eyes to how our current situation has been made possible when so many middle class Americans aren’t even aware. In the first chapter, Gladwell talks about the American belief in the “self-made man” and the triumph of personal determination and grit, and about how this perception of success is flawed.

In Outliers, I want to convince you that these kinds of personal explanations of success don’t work. People don’t rise from nothing. We do owe something to parentage and patronage. The people who stand before kings may look like they did it all by themselves. But in fact they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot. It makes a difference where and when we grew up. The culture we belong to and the legacies passed down by our forebears shape the patterns of our achievement in ways we cannot begin to imagine. It’s not enough to ask what successful people are like, in other words. It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn’t. (Outliers p. 18)

The rest of the book documents these assertions, and if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.

IMG_6718I grew up in a middle class White household, which gave me certain privileges that I did not recognize for a long time. As I was growing up, my peers and I were taught not to think in racist terms; we have come to believe that the Civil Rights movement ended all racism and that now we are living in a racial utopia. However, recent events are revealing just how wrong we really are, and we are trying to wrap our minds around a reality we never were aware of. Sadly, many are in denial, but the number of recent incidents, and the protests and riots in Ferguson, should show us that it’s a real issue, not something made up. Privilege is not a bad thing, but it does give us a greater responsibility for righting the wrongs in our society.

Now is not a time for vengeance for all wrongs, real or perceived. Now is not a time to pretend these wrongs are all imagined. Now is not a time for rhetoric and political posturing. Now is not a time to wait for things to “blow over” so we can get back to business as usual.

The time has come for action and change, for the deliberate opening of opportunities to those who have been denied, for whatever reason. It is a time for increasing our awareness and understanding, to practice “connective listening” with those who have long felt unheard. By listening and understanding, we can begin to identify practical steps to heal racial divisions, first in the Church, then in our communities, and finally in our country and beyond.