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Fighting for Harmony: Part I

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | March 06, 2010

"When two people meet there are really six people present. There is each man as he sees himself, each man as the other sees him, and each man as he really is."
William James

Fighting for harmony. Although those words may sound like an oxymoron, we use them often here at VFCC. Whether it is a college, a company, a family, a neighborhood, or an entire country, harmony can only happen if people believe it is essential and everyone makes a tenacious commitment to it. 


How can we make sure that we fight for harmony? Noted author Ron Jenson addressed this challenge in an article "12 Steps to Conflict Resolution." In this article he shares strategies and principles to resolve conflict in any relationship. I will share six (6) of these principles this week and six (6) next week.

1. Learn to Embrace and Resolve Conflict. Jenson reminds us of the tendency of so many to react to conflict by "fight" or "flight." Some will avoid conflict at all cost. They really will run from it. They will let people run all over them or they will avoid even the slightest hint of anything controversial. Perhaps they grew up in an environment where their family overreacted in times of conflict and they determined to never act like that.

If we are to resolve conflict, we cannot solve it by "fight" or "flight." We must figure out a way to address it. And that's what these other eleven steps are about. So let's notice the other eleven.

2. Address Your Anger Appropriately. We must learn how to handle anger. Anger is an emotion and is not, technically bad. Actually, anger can be very good. You may become angry that you can't speak the language of the country you moved to. You may be angry at ignorance or inefficiency or sickness. That kind of anger can motivate you to learn a language, become a teacher or management coach or a medical professional.

3. Seek Understanding, not Victory. Jenson says it perfectly, "Learn to listen. That's the killer for most of us. But, you'll never be a pro at resolving conflict unless you let go of trying to always win and focus on truly understanding. So, keep your mouth shut and ask questions...don't get in an attack mode."

4. Assume the Best. How easy it is for any of us to jump to conclusions instead of giving others the benefit of the doubt. I love Thomas Merton's insight about this, "Your idea of me is fabricated with materials you have borrowed from other people and from yourself. What you think of me depends on what you think of yourself. Perhaps you create your idea of me out of material that you would like to eliminate from your own idea of yourself. Perhaps your idea of me is a reflection of what other people think of you. Or perhaps what you think of me is simply what you think I think of you."

5. Learn to Share Your Feelings Appropriately. Sometimes it is very hard to label accurately our feelings. Hurt and anger are closely related and sometimes almost indistinguishable. Many men (and women, too) react to hurt with anger. All of us should be careful when we are angry because the real culprit may be hurt.

6. Watch Your Tongue. We all know the power of the tongue. Others have inspired us and disappointed us with their tongue. With our tongue, we have lifted others to lofty heights and at times thrown them into a hopeless pit.

Here are three questions we must ask of every communication moment: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?

Ron Jenson has given us here six (6) helpful steps for our fight for harmony. Next week we'll ponder six (6) more. For as Abigail Van Buren said, "People who fight fire with fire usually end up with ashes."

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA
Responses can be mailed to president@vfcc.edu