Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Conflict resolution

Continuing the theme of this week (with the exception of the Fly Guy blip), I woke up early this morning thinking about conflict resolution, especially on an interpersonal level. This has been an interest of mine for a long time. I grew up with a not-very-healthy "non-exposure" to healthy marital conflict, and went into my marriage with the really odd idea that married couples, if the marriage is really good, don't ever fight or argue or experience any conflict. This notion didn't work too well for me. Thus began an interest in learning more about healthy conflict resolution w.r.t relationships. I can't say I've become an expert on the subject or anything, but I have read some enlightening works over the past few years. One of them is Words that Hurt, Words that Heal, by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, which came out awhile back but is still very relevant. The way we talk to and about one another really matters. This book was first brought to my attention by an FLT friend who told us about "National Speak No Evil Day." (She also told us about this resource.)

Deborah Tannen has made a career out of researching and teaching about the way people talk with one another. She has several relevant and accessible books on this topic. Her website also has references to a lot of articles and essays she has written on the same topics. (Hmmm, I'm thinking I need to read her latest book, You're Wearing That?! Here's a link to her conversation with Diane Rehm about the book. I love Diane Rehm's show...but that's a topic for another day.)

All of this can be extended to the wider view: how people -- politicians, interviewers and talk show hosts as well as individuals -- talk about one another in the public discourse, how leaders of one nation talk about other nations and their all matters. I'm not saying no one should ever express anything but niceties to one another, what I'm after here is learning how to express ourselves and our feelings in ways that are constructive and building up or at the very least not destructive and hurtful. I'll be the first to admit that this is not easy, and I am not always able to pull it off, but it is still worth working on, on every level of discourse. Come to think of it, that includes how we talk to ourselves, our inner language: we can learn how not to be so self-critical. That's something I am actively working on, too. Which reminds me, I'd better go get on it!

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