Great Outcomes and Shared Interests

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In 2004, I was living and working in S. Korea.  It was the first time I experienced a US presidential election while living overseas, and I was truly surprised by the interest my Korean friends and connections showed in the election.  In retrospect, it made sense; the policy decisions in the US have wide-sweeping impacts around the globe.  It was at that point that I started paying even more attention to US foreign policy.

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Photo by Tasha M. Troy

In their book Real Influence, Mark Goulston and John Ullmen describe four steps in their “connected influence” model.  The first step is “go for great outcomes,” which they define as “standing for something noble and worthwhile, … about going beyond where people want to be and showing them where they could be” (p. 39).  This is what I hope to accomplish in this post.

Standing for Something Noble:  America was once considered a world leader, promoting democracy and human rights, resisting totalitarianism, fighting for freedom and liberty.  There is something inspiring in the images of Captain American and Superman, however unrealistic they may be.

However, that image was not entirely accurate.  We have not always used our power and influence wisely or ethically.  I was first made aware of the “dark side” of American exceptionalism when I was in high school and I learned about US intervention in other nations having catastrophic impacts on those nations.

As an example, I wrote a report for my history class my senior year in high school on the effects of US intervention in Nicaragua.  I discovered that by supporting a “right-wing dictator” in the first half of the 20th century, the US actually set the stage for the communist regime to gain power in the 1970s.

Strangely enough, we still haven’t learned our lesson; we are still supporting repressive regimes in other countries, leading to the loss of civil liberties and human rights in places such as Iraq and Ethiopia.

Closer to home, we hear in the news everyday of injustices being perpetrated on the disadvantaged, the underprivileged, the different.  We tried to tell ourselves that prejudice was dead, but we see across the country that it is alive and well.  I know I am not exempt, though I strive to identify and eliminate judgmental attitudes in myself.

Where People Want to Be:  Clearly, these injustices can not be allowed to continue, either at home or abroad.  I believe people want to see economic inequality and racial prejudices not merely reduced but completely eliminated, personal freedoms ensured.  What I envision is a world where every person is enabled to reach their God-given potential.

Where I think we have trouble is that we disagree on precisely how to accomplish this.  Some may think it is impossible and have given up, but I still have hope.  A first step is “healing the timeline.”

Dutch Sheets, in his book An Appeal to Heaven, talks about “healing the timeline.”  By this, he means that we as a nation need to recognize the injustices in our own history (and present), not deny or ignore them, and actively and humbly seek reconciliation.

We humans engage in denial at times, because it seems to alleviate the pain, but God doesn’t.  His plan, as Isaiah said, is always to “rebuild … raise up … repair … restore” the broken timelines.  The mending of these breaks allows the pain of the past to heal, not be buried.  … Without true healing, this cycle of pain repeats itself generation after generation. …

Through humility, repentance, God’s love, and forgiveness, we can heal history’s timeline. (p. 22-24)

Showing Them Where They Could Be:  After World War 2, we were the thought leaders of the world.  We were respected even by those who disliked us.  Still today, for good or ill, the US holds great influence on nations and individuals near and far.  To deny that influence is to perpetuate injustice.  We have to get our own house in order so that we can once again be an influence for human rights, justice, and liberty.

 

Links and Resources:

An Invitation – Join me for a live Q&A call, Thursday, July 16, at 8:00 p.m. EDT.

Real Influence: Persuade without Pushing and Gain without Giving by Mark Goulston and John Ullmen

An Appeal to Heaven by Dutch Sheets

  • A short, quick, easy read, full of hope for the future of America.

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler.

  • A systematic approach to difficult conversations that can make or break a relationship; more focused on specific types of conversations than Real Influence.

 

 

Building Trust: A Divided Nation Reunified

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Sometimes, when I look at the situation in the US, I feel like it is an impossible situation.  Every day there’s another news story about Democrats and Republicans intentionally thwarting each other, and this animosity between Liberals and Conservatives trickles down into the culture at large.  I sometimes wonder if there is hope for our country to move forward, past the bickering and divisions and into our calling as a nation – to be a beacon of hope and liberty.IMG_7069

I was recently reminded of a time in ancient Israel’s history when that nation was divided but managed to reunite.  Most know the story of King David: he was anointed king as a shepherd boy, later served under King Saul, and eventually fled for his life before being crowned king of all Israel in the end.  However, were you aware that David’s first several years as king were over the tribe of Judah only?

We find the story at the beginning of 2 Samuel.  Upon the death of Saul, David moved to the city of Hebron and was crowned king by the tribe of Judah, his home tribe.  Saul’s son Ishbosheth was crowned king over the other tribes in his father’s place.  These two kingdoms did not coexist peacefully; there were several battles and revenge killings that occurred during this period.  After the assassination of Ishbosheth, the leaders of Israel approached David and “anointed David king of Israel” (2 Sam. 5:3).  After all the conflict, how was this possible?

What made the difference was David’s reaction to the deaths of his so-called enemies.

  • When David was informed of Saul’s death, and particularly the manner of his final demise at the hands of the messenger, he had the messenger executed (2 Sam. 1:2-16).  He later rewarded those who took Saul’s body to bury it (2 Sam. 2:4-7).  In this way, he showed respect and honor for King Saul.
  • When the general over Israel’s armies was treacherously killed by one of his own men, he gave the general a proper burial and mourned over his death in sincerity, showing all that he had not wished for this man’s death (2 Sam. 3).
  • When the assassins came to David with Ishbosheth’s head, expecting a reward, they were executed as murderers instead (2 Sam. 4).  He wouldn’t reward those who killed their king and leader, whatever their reason.

In that day and age, David was completely within his rights to seek the deaths of Saul, his sons, and his generals in order to establish his own kingdom.  However, David refused to look on these people as his enemies, and he acted as though he were still serving under Saul’s leadership.  It was this attitude of humility and his sincere sorrow at their deaths that won the hearts of the leaders of Israel, resulting in his being crowned king over the entire nation.

I believe that it was David’s consistency in mourning the deaths of those most would call his enemies that built the trust and confidence of his people.  In so doing, he earned their respect and was able to lead them effectively during the 40 years of his kingship.

These stories demonstrate that David was determined to achieve God’s promise by following God’s plan, doing things God’s way, and not by following the conventional wisdom.  Perhaps it is time we do the same.

Blessed are the Peacemakers: Dealing with Conflict

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When I was still living and working overseas, I had a bit of a conflict with a coworker.  She taught the class right after me, and she started coming into my

Bundang Central Park

Bundang Central Park

classroom before I was finished with my class.  I decided to deal with this privately in the office, and I asked her not to do it anymore as it was disruptive when I was trying to wrap up my class.  She responded by verbally attacking me and declaring that she didn’t need to stop, that she had the right to enter that room to start getting set up.  However, despite her response to my request, she did in fact stop entering my classroom before I dismissed my students, and we were able to continue working together peacefully.

I personally hate conflict, but I have come to realize that there are times when addressing issues is necessary, regardless of whether it leads to conflict or not.  There are some who revel in conflict and find ways to instigate it whenever possible, but I believe most people fall in the middle, dealing with conflict as it arises but neither dreading nor enjoying it.  However, it seems to me that most people don’t handle conflict as effectively as they could.

Ken Thomas and Ralph Kilmann developed a theory of conflict handling which identifies five distinct styles:

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

Each style has it’s merits and drawbacks, and there are situations where each might be the preferred approach.  A first step in improving your own approach to conflict is understanding which style is your default.  For example, my default is to avoid the conflict; I don’t believe every disagreement is worth confronting.  However, I have learned that a delay in dealing with an issue usually makes the situation worse, and I am still learning how to recognize sooner when it is important to deal with something head-on.

Wherever the Bible speaks of reconciliation, it is addressing broken relationships, not the resolution of disagreements.  In my experience, it is impossible to fully agree with someone on all points; there will always be some measure of disagreement, but this is not necessarily a bad thing.  Differing perspectives are necessary for creativity to flourish and for assumptions to be challenged.  When there is a difference of opinion, you are forced to explain your position more explicitly, leading to clearer thinking and better decisions.

There is much that has been written about dealing with conflict – a quick Google search brings up over 65 million results in under one second!  However, I have found three keys to resolving conflict and living with differences of opinion in my own life.

1.  Humility.  This is the number one most important element of successful conflict resolution, which is why I think so many conflicts remain unresolved or even escalate.  Someone has to take the first step toward resolution, and that step requires setting aside your sense of fairness.  Just remember – conflict is not fair for anyone.

2.  Conscious listening.  Another key reason many conflicts go unresolved is because people get too caught up in their own perspectives and refuse to consider the other side’s point of view.  Very often, both sides have valid points that need to be recognized and taken into consideration.

3.  Creative problem solving.  If the particular conflict under consideration does not allow for “agreeing to disagree,” and compromise is distasteful at best, then a collaborative approach is necessary.  This approach requires honesty and openness from both sides, as well as a release of preconceptions and a willingness to think outside the box.  Finding a solution in this way is usually time consuming, but ultimately the result garners greater buy-in from all involved.

Conflict is inevitable.  How we approach a conflict determines the extent the conflict can be constructive or destructive.  If you value the relationship, consider the three points above the next time you find yourself in a dispute.

 

Links and Resources

22 Bible verse about peacemakers

51 Bible verses about conflict resolution

64 Bible verses about reconciliation

Conflict Resolution: Resolving Conflict Rationally and Effectively

An article that explains the five conflict handling styles as well as the “Interest Based Relational Approach” to dealing with conflict, an approach based on the concepts of the book Getting to Yes by authors Roger Fisher, William L. Ury, and Bruce Patton

Check out these previous blog posts for more on my thoughts on:

humility – The Power of Gentleness

conscious listening – Reclaiming the Art of Listening

creative problem solving – The Value of Diversity