To resolve conflicts, begin with the 1% commonality, not the 99% differences
Whenever we have a conflict with someone, our attention naturally goes to the area of conflict: we want to do things in one way; they, in another way. However, focusing on differences thickens the wall of hostility that increases polarization.
To resolve the conflict, we need to conscientiously shift our focus to what we share, not where we differ. That shift brings us closer to a common ground, where we can start talking with each other instead of talking past each other.
What if we feel that we differ so much that we have nothing in common? Such a feeling hardly ever arises from reality; it usually arises because our perception of reality is distorted by the lower modes of passion and ignorance. The Bhagavad-gita (18.20) states that perception in the mode of goodness sees beyond material diversity to spiritual commonality.
How can we cultivate the mode of goodness? By regularly engaging in spiritual practices. And amidst provoking situations, by consciously calming ourselves through appropriate practices such as deep breathing or mantra chanting. With our consciousness thus elevated, we can better appreciate others’ concerns and better articulate our own.
Often, conflicts escalate not just because of the issues, but also because of the emotions we bring to the issues. Starting with commonalities activates positive emotions, thereby offsetting extraneous negativities. With that positivity, we may well discover that whereas we earlier thought that our differences were 99%, actually our commonalities are 99%. We may well share the same overarching purposes and differ only about contextual processes. Even if we differ substantially, we still share the same ultimate purposes such as spiritual evolution and social contribution; the differences are therefore not worth fighting over endlessly.
By thus beginning with 1% commonality, we increase the likelihood of arriving at amicable resolutions.
Think it over:
- How does cultivating the mode of goodness help in conflict resolution?
- How can we prevent the escalation of conflicts?
- Are you presently in any conflict with someone? Can you list at least three commonalities you share with them?
18.20 That knowledge by which one undivided spiritual nature is seen in all living entities, though they are divided into innumerable forms, you should understand to be in the mode of goodness.
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