Friday, March 30, 2007

Us Vs. Them

Quite simply, conflicts arise when we come across objectionable behavior in others.

Instead of pointing out the behavior that is disturbing us, we take exception to the person

exhibiting the behavior. Although it may make sense at the outset, like the person is responsible for the behavior and hence no need to disassociate, this kind of thinking and approach does not lead to the solution and hence the need to look at this closely.

Take a simple example of your neighbor, who smokes and that bothers you because the kids play outside in the evening and the you are worried about the second hand smoking.

Now, clearly smoking in the open where kids may be exposed is an irresponsible act.

However, one type of response would be to judge the neighbor as being irresponsible and irrational and the moment this judgment is made by you, you eliminate the possibility of having a rational discussion with the neighbor. We know what happens after that, talk behind the back, scowl, generate hard feelings every time you come across this person and so on.

On the other hand, you disassociate the irresponsible behavior from the neighbor(the person)
(and perhaps focus on the goodness in him/her - the time when he picked up groceries when you were sick etc)
and consider the neighbor as your friend. Suddenly the true culprit - the behavior is isolated and can now be presented as such to your friend. In this case, you and your neighbor friend are one and you can present your case in an atmosphere where both can truly discuss, listen (this is important) to each others' concern and you have now created the possibility to finding an amicable solution.

This applies to conflicts arising between couples in a relationship to conflicts between cultures, religions, traditions, nations and everything in between.
Now the question arises, why do we associate the behavior with the person so often?

Perhaps, because that is how we treat ourselves. When we commit an idiotic act, we say, "I am an idiot", don't we? No matter how nasty, compulsive, addictive and detrimental our behaviors are, they are simply behaviors that we have chosen to exhibit and if we so choose, we can discard and adopt whatever we want.

We are not our behaviors.

So if we, from now on, pay careful attention to our behaviors and see them as our choices, we can gain control over them and not be so harsh on ourselves when we act angrily the next time knowing that it too can be changed

and perhaps it will help us to see others in the same light as well.


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