Each person in a conflict has their own story. These stories play out as dramas, in which we see ourselves as the innocent victim (or, perhaps, the righteous hero) and cast our adversary as the villain. Our adversaries, on the other hand, see themselves as the victim (or hero, standing up for themselves) and see us as the villain. This cycle of victimization, attack and defense can be characterized as a drama triangle of conflict – a dynamic that locks us into confrontation with winners and losers, right and wrong.
One person’s hero, however, is another’s villain, as both roles are marked by aggressive behaviours that impose what is “right” on others. We label people based on how their actions impact us Togel . When we feel attacked or disrespected, we assume the other person intended that result and characterize them as a villain. (We justify our own actions based on our noble intention and the righteousness of our cause.)
Being aware of the culture in which a conflict occurs helps us clarify these assumptions by understanding someone’s motive or intention. I refer to “culture” in the broadest sense – the values and norms that reflect “how we do things around here.” “Here” could pertain to religious or ethnic communities, families, organizations or nations. In their book, Turning Conflict Into Profit, Larry Axelrod and Roy Johnson go so far as to state “every communication is a cross-cultural communication” (ie. colored and influenced by each person’s unique life experience.)
Culture can be seen as the lens through which we judge behaviours and we characterize people as victims, heroes or villains. Behaviours lauded as admirable in one culture (“she is forthright” or “you know where you stand with him”) may be judged as inappropriate and unacceptable in another culture (“she is so aggressive” or “he’s always in your face.”) In some groups, arriving ten minutes late for a meeting would be considered rude and disrespectful. In other groups, no one would think twice about it. People who feel judged and misunderstood naturally become defensive, escalating conflict. To break this cycle, switch from judgement to curiosity and seek to understand the underlying values in a conflict.
A colleague recently moved to a new organization that described itself as open and collaborative. She therefore assumed she would be invited to express herself at meetings and receive balanced and ongoing feedback on her performance. Instead, she became increasingly frustrated as she found herself fighting for airtime at meetings and hearing from co-workers only when there was a problem. It took her several months (and many challenging conversations) to understand this new culture. Reflecting ethnic values around directness, the organization expected people to speak up if they had concerns and took “no news as good news.” Behaviours which she judged as rude or even hypocritical were simply “the way we do things around here” and were not intended to disrespect her in the least. Her co-workers likely viewed her as passive or needy. Once the cultural underpinnings of these conflicts were surfaced and addressed, she was able to negotiate about airtime and feedback and adjust her own style (and expectations) accordingly. Had she not remained curious (and had the courage to confront the situation) the cycle of judgement would have reinforced and hardened the conflict. (“They are clearly villains! I can’t believe they are treating me this way!”)
This much beloved movie is played yearly for families everywhere. It is America’s first true fairy tale, written by L. Frank Baum. A fairy tale is traditionally a story in which fairies (or trans-dimensional beings) help the hero to overcome the worst of personal circumstances. These spirits act as a midwife to help the hero make a profound shift from a miserable life — to one of immense joy. It is in essence, a rebirth. Animals and nature are often highlighted in this process. This shift of awareness can occur for anyone, regardless of their station in life. Often the hero or heroine win their true love, and achieve their heart’s desire in a happy ending (American version). Mythology is important in this regard, as it cloaks a valuable lesson in the telling of each tale. This is why such stories become classic generation after generation.
European fairy tales were often modeled after bible stories adopting the regional culture — such as Snow White who bit the apple and fell to her sleeping death. The hero is often faced with the most frightful of circumstances, often primal in nature. A good example is the story of Hansel and Gretel, who wandered upon a cannibalistic witch, after being abandoned by their parents. These stories portray the many difficulties we face living in the material world. Children relate strongly to these adventures since they often feel powerless, and are promised magical solutions (against all odds) that can deliver their heart’s desire. Magic, in this regard, means finding solutions that are beyond normal occurrences, often miraculous in nature. But making a dream come true only happens when one can prove their worth, mostly through enduring a set of grueling tasks. These tasks prove the integrity, loyalty and devotion of the native. These trials are reminiscent of the labors of Hercules, of Greek tradition.
In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy leaves her home after her neighbor threatens to kill her beloved dog Toto. Distraught, her family fails to protect her faithful companion. Dorothy flees, only to be knocked unconscious by a terrible tornado. She awakens in another world and is led on a journey where she wishes to find a happier place. Along her way she makes friends with a Scarecrow, a Tin man and a cowardly Lion. The foursome then search for the wise and powerful Wizard of Oz, so that they may find their heart’s desire.