Willing to Disagree and Facing Conflict

“The people to fear are not those who disagree with you, but those who disagree with you and are too cowardly to let you know.”

– Napoleon Bonaparte


Being willing to disagree, facing conflict squarely and not hiding is difficult to do for most of us. I can say for myself, it used to terrify me.  I was the peace-maker in my family, the one who tried to make everything OK when anyone in my family was arguing (and trust me, there was a lot of arguing in my family!)  And when my husband, Jeff and I used to argue, it terrified me.  My fear of abandonment surfaced and I shrank.  The fact that Jeff is about 6′ 2″ and I’m just over 5′ added to the whole paradigm of shrinking back.  Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t give into every whim, but I didn’t like to face the conflict and sort through the disagreement.  My usual MO was to punish with silence, to walk away and not talk and make him suffer (yes I know, not the most mature approach!)  But as I said, conflict terrified me and I did not like being around people who disagreed with me.

It was only after years of therapy and reading lots of books that I came to value myself enough to not fear standing my ground.  And by realizing that I would survive fine without Jeff,  my fear of abandonment started to dissapate, and I became stronger in my willingness to face conflict head on, and as a result, our relationship grew stronger.

I’m not that afraid of conflict anymore, and this brings a delicious freedom.  I don’t necessarily go looking for an argument, but as a 50+ year old woman, I am pretty good at standing my own ground now!

So it was with great interest that I listened to Margaret Heffernan in this fascinating TED Talk, Dare to Disagree.  She describes constructive conflict as a fantastic model of collaboration: thinking partners who aren’t echo chambers.

“So what does that kind of constructive conflict require? Well, first of all . . . it means we have to resist the neurobiological drive, which means that we really prefer people mostly like ourselves, and it means we have to  find ways to engage with them. That requires a lot of patience and a lot of energy. And the more I’ve thought about this, the more I think, really, that that’s a kind of love. Because you simply won’t commit that kind of energy and time if you don’t really care.”

I love that statement that we have to resist the neurobiological drive, which means that we really prefer people mostly like ourselves.  It’s true, we usually surround ourselves with people who agree with us and show disdain for those who do not.  But in reality, as Heffernan points out, conflict often leads to creativity:

“Yes, there was a lot of conflict and debate and argument, but that allowed everyone around the table to be creative, to solve the problem.”

I agree with Heffernan, we must be willing to disagree with each other, to face conflict and work through it.  In this TED talk she explains the importance of disagreement in organizations and globally. But for me, I can only confirm how liberating it is personally.  As Napoleon points out – the people to fear are not those who disagree with you, but those who disagree with you and are too cowardly to let you know. Daring to disagree takes courage, but in my opinion, it is essential.

 

 

Please tell me about the times you have dared to disagree.  And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

 

 

 

 

 

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Living Life to the Fullest . . . Now!

“Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.”

– James Dean


James Dean instructs us to live as if you’ll die today.  Wonderful sentiment, but how many of us really do live life to the fullest NOW?  A lot of us say, I’ll live life to the fullest when I (fill in the blank) – when I win lotto, when I get that new job, when I find my soul mate . . .

I’ve been reading a memoire by a friend of mine (check out her inspirational blog,  Lois McCullough)  This memoire, and her blog to some extent, chronicle the journey of a woman who nurses her dying husband, and then has to deal with the grief but continute to stay present and be there for her young sons.  It’s a brave and honest account of one woman’s experience dealing with the death of a loved one.

Lois’s memoire But You Cope So Well has been a great reminder to me to stay present and to live as if I might die today, and to cherish those I love because they might die today as well.  It’s not easy staying in that place, so many little things get in the way.  But in my opinion if we don’t do it now, it easily could be too late.

While contemplating all of this – death, living life to the fullest, appreciating my own life and the lives of those I love – I did some research and found this remarkable woman, Candy Chang.  She mirrors my sentiments when she says: “Thinking about death clarifies your life.”

Please take the time to watch this short TED Talk.  Her talk, Before I Die I Want To is moving and inspirational.

 

 

Please let me know how you fill in your own blank:  Before I Die, I Want To . . . .  And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

What are your First World Problems?

“If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry.”

– Dalai Lama XIV


I was on Skype last night with my husband Jeff, who as I wrote in my last post, is in Borneo for a year.  And I got so frustrated by the quality of the video on Skype, the picture was fuzzy, we kept having lag time, and the connection kept cutting out.  I finally gave up and went to bed.  I woke up this morning and was emailing Jeff, and I realized – as I sat in my warm bed and looked out the window at the rain falling, as I sipped my hot tea and used the amazing technology to communicate with my husband so far away – that complaining about the quality of our skype call is such a First World Problem!

And so fittingly, about 10 minutes later, as I was reading Common Dreams, I found this series of ads that I have attached below called First World Problems.  This wonderful series of ads was created by Water is Life.  So powerful!

As the Dalai Lama says: If a problem is fixable, if you can do something about it, there is no need to worry. 

We can do something about this problem.  If you can – donate!  There are so many organizations out there trying to help: Water is Life, Charity Water, Water.Org to name just a few.  I googled donating for water and got over 75,000 results.  And if you can’t donate, then send this video to your friends and raise awareness.  Each of us can make a difference!

 

What’s your first world problem?  Thank you for visiting, I appreciate it.

Staying Present . . . even on an emotional roller coaster

“If you hold back on emotions—if you don’t allow yourself to go all the way through them—you can never get beyond them, you’re too busy being afraid.”

– Mitch Albom (Tuesdays with Morrie)


The past couple of weeks have been incredibly emotional. My husband, Jeff left for a year to work with The British Council doing teacher training in Borneo!  Working with developing countries in the field of education has been a goal of Jeff’s for many years, a goal he put off to be present with his family, be a good partner, be a good dad, be responsible.  So for the most part, I’m thrilled for Jeff!  It’s going to be a fantastic year for him, amazing experiences, a great job, etc. AND, I’m bereft and in pain.  In the weeks leading up to Jeff  leaving, I was blown away at the emotions flowing through me.  And I’m so grateful that I’ve done the work I’ve done regarding my own personal growth, so I could be present with the intense emotional roller coaster.  Often, I would be doing something quite mundane, and suddenly I was overwhelmed with sadness and I would sob and feel intense grief just flood me.  But the interesting thing is when I was present to it, allowed the sadness and tears to overtake me, the emotions would rush through me, in waves, then dissipate and be gone.  Whereas when I tried to push them away, and stay “in control” and try to cover them up and stay busy, I would get a knot in my stomach, feel sick and feel overwhelmed and completely drained.  It was only by letting the emotions come, when they came and flow through me that I was able to keep going.

Emotions are fascinating to me.  To think that they are just part of our brain chemistry is a weird thing to get my head around. Neuroscientist and inventor Christopher deCharms does an interesting short TED talk where he demonstrates a new way to use fMRI to show brain activity — thoughts, emotions, pain — while it is happening. In other words, you can actually see how you feel!  Kind of an interesting way to look at it.  I’m not sure what would happen to those brain waves and chemicals that become our emotions if we try to push them away and pretend they are not there.  But from my experience, I know in my body, it is not good to struggle against my emotions.  When I allow them, they move through me fluidly and I can stay somewhat sane!  When I deny them, I get sick and feel crazy.  And that is a good enough reason to stay emotional for me.

 

 

Please let me know what how you deal with emotional roller coasters.  And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.