solving the conflict…

This week I had an unfortunate conflict with a client. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of conflict; however, learning to work through conflict in a healthy way is a necessary life skill.

Allow me to first share some brief background, which will aid in reaching the main point of today’s further-reaching post…

I work with a highly respected counseling group. While not a licensed professional counselor, my role is to connect an excellent, counseling team with organizations which desire to offer increased professional care for the mental health of persons in their purview. It is a sweet, privileged process to be able to help persons get the care they need.

Last week I had a man call who was very angry. Through a series of steps and conversations with others, he had come to believe something about a friend’s care that was untrue. Let me be respectfully clear: the man passionately believed that his perspective was completely accurate. As the one who administers the program, I can tell you his perspective was incorrect. But by this time, the conflict had brewed for a bit, and the man was mad. He was loud. He believed absolutely everything he was saying.

I’ve had some time since to reflect upon the conflict, and because I desire to grow in what is good, I’ve also asked myself: where else does this apply?

I look at our country and culture, seeing them attempt to work through conflict. With all due respect, our country stinks at it.

I look at the current shutdown. We stink at solving that, too.

I hear you. “If Trump would only quit demanding he get his way, demanding he get the money to build his campaign-promised wall…” Or… “If Pelosi and Schumer would only recognize how hypocritical they are, as when Obama was in office, they wholeheartedly supported such a barrier…”

Yes, please don’t attempt to tell me how one side is more moral or consistent. They are arguing about 0.0998% of the total federal budget; both sides seem most about political posturing. My personal hope is that the President’s stab at compromise over the weekend is sincere and will be fruitful — leading to a solution to the shutdown and to more bipartisan talks as to how we can efficiently, effectively and compassionately overhaul the current broken immigration system going forward.

But the problem with conflict is we get stuck in this unhealthy pattern, thinking that there exist only two ways to solve a problem… You/me. Black/white. Republican/Democrat. Yada/Yada. Then we only fight for and listen to a singular side.

Friends, there are far more ways than two to solve almost every problem.

When the loud, angry man called me last week, I can’t say I was thrilled. In fact, I immediately said an extra prayer for patience in hopes that I could listen well.

I listened to the man who shared his story. I asked questions about what I didn’t understand. I didn’t point out any perceived wrongful thinking. The purpose of my question asking was to understand why he felt the way he did.

Fascinating what happened next…

The angry man felt heard by my listening. He softened. Giving him space, grace, and time to communicate as he desired, he then was willing to hear my perspective, too. I shared with him some things he didn’t know. And by me listening to him first, he was willing to wrestle with what he previously misunderstood. He even offered that maybe he was part of the miscommunication.

 So after our initial, mutual respectful round of listening, I asked, “Sir, can I share with you my end game? My priority is the person gets the care they need. With that in mind, let’s work back from there.”

If our branches of government would first listen to one another — then recognize that they want the same thing — effective border security, which minimizes crime but allows responsible others to enter — and if they would work back from there — perhaps they would realize there exist more than solely two approaches.

Perhaps they would also realize our government would serve us better, too.

Did I mention that learning to work through conflict in a healthy way is a necessary life skill?

Respectfully…
AR

 

today’s questions…

If you’ve been a longtime reader of the Intramuralist, you’ll know that the question mark is my favorite punctuation piece. Why?

Because no other mark invites a response.

Let us thus discuss the events of the today via questions — 20, in fact. Some are mine, some are not… but all are respectfully — albeit some playfully — asked…

  1. Who leads in a government shut down?
  2. How long can this last?
  3. Why do members of the Executive and Legislative Branches still get paid during a shut down?
  4. How will Broadway star Carol Channing be remembered?
  5. What is “toxic masculinity”?
  6. Is there such a thing as “toxic femininity”?
  7. Does not everyone know that the terms “white nationalist” and “white supremacy” are offensive?
  8. Why do some choose to be anti-Semitic?
  9. Can we please restore (and model) compromise and civility?
  10. Is the “Notorious RBG” ok?
  11. What could we all learn from the sweet friendship of Ruth Bader Ginsberg and the late Antonin Scalia?
  12. Has anyone noticed Netflix is going to raise our rates?
  13. Does Sen. Bernie Sanders own a comb?
  14. What does yesterday’s vote rejecting the Prime Minister of England’s plan to exit the European Union actually mean?
  15. Who will win between the Chiefs/Patriots and Saints/Rams this weekend?
  16. How long can Tom Brady and Drew Brees actually play?
  17. Exactly how many people will run for President?
  18. How much economic experience is required?
  19. Will the best people actually run?
  20. And, what more questions should we be asking, which would spur on more dialogue, which is always better than shouting opinions at one another?

Yes, just asking questions, friends.

It is the only punctuation piece that invites a response.

Respectfully…

AR

intellectual humility

Warning: this might be my least popular blog post. Ever. It also is relevant and true.

I therefore encourage you to proceed with caution. Read at your own risk. I have zero intent to disrespect.

We’ve come to 2019, where our world continues to clunkily seek its way of relating and operating in a crazy culture… a society in which the lack of humility seems totally glaring in our highest levels of leadership and in those who offer vocal opposition or support. People are justifying judgment.

Judgment is fueled by the absence of humility. When we don’t know what we don’t know, we tend to get puffed up. As Brian Resnick, a science reporter at Vox.com, wrote in a brilliant editorial last week, “It’s so hard to see our own ignorance.”

Quoting the work of Julia Rohrer, a personality psychologist and Life Fellow at Deutshes Institut Für Wirtschaftforschung, Berlin:

“I do think it’s a cultural issue that people are not willing to admit mistakes.”

Resnick wrestles with the profound, phenomenal virtue: intellectual humility.  

Intellectual humility is the self-awareness that some things you believe might be wrong.

Writes Resnick [Note: all emphasis mine]…

“… Don’t confuse it with overall humility or bashfulness. It’s not about being a pushover; it’s not about lacking confidence, or self-esteem. The intellectually humble don’t cave every time their thoughts are challenged.

Instead, it’s a method of thinking. It’s about entertaining the possibility that you may be wrong and being open to learning from the experience of others. Intellectual humility is about being actively curious about your blind spots. One illustration is in the ideal of the scientific method, where a scientist actively works against her own hypothesis, attempting to rule out any other alternative explanations for a phenomenon before settling on a conclusion. It’s about asking: What am I missing here?

It doesn’t require a high IQ or a particular skill set. It does, however, require making a habit of thinking about your limits, which can be painful. ‘It’s a process of monitoring your own confidence.’”

Unfortunately, too many are unaware of their limits — perhaps feeling as if they have few or none — either precisely because of their intelligence or experience or because they allow opinion-based analysis to serve as their primary news source.

Pick your issue. Pick your passion. Pick the budget shutdown, the Supreme Court, or the 2016 election, for example. We each have an opinion. The biased sources such as CNN, FOX, and MSNBC feed it. We then conclude we are right; we don’t know what we don’t know; we don’t recognize the limits to our knowledge; and we are not encouraged by the likeminded to monitor our own confidence.

Resnick surmises three main challenges on this wiser path to humility: 

  1. In order for us to acquire more intellectual humility, we all, even the smartest among us, need to better appreciate our cognitive blind spots. Our minds are more imperfect and imprecise than we’d often like to admit. Our ignorance can be invisible.
  2. Even when we overcome that immense challenge and figure out our errors, we need to remember we won’t necessarily be punished for saying, ‘I was wrong.’ And we need to be braver about saying it. We need a culture that celebrates those words.
  3. We’ll never achieve perfect intellectual humility. So we need to choose our convictions thoughtfully.

I have long averred that intelligence and wisdom are not the same. Of the two, wisdom is the only virtue; intelligence often gets in the way. 

Intelligence often impedes our want and willingness to listen and learn from the different, recognizing the immense value in the different. Intelligence can thus cloud the reality that there are limits to what we know and can possibly know.

Let me be clear: intellectual humility is not easy to attain, but in a world that increasingly justifies judgment, arrogance, and blatant disrespect — especially from the intelligent — it is a virtue worth striving for.

What, my friends, don’t you know?

Where might you be wrong?

Respectfully…

AR

compromise?

While we were focused on the meaning and merry of recent holidays and resolutions, the federal government quit working efficiently and effectively. 

Oh, wait… allow me to insert a total opinion here… the federal government quit working efficiently and effectively years ago. (These past few weeks it’s just a little more, uh, obvious.)

All said, I’ve wrestled with a proper approach to respectfully acknowledge the state of current affairs. I’ve pondered if taking one side or another is wise. The temptation, however, is quickly doused when we find multiple public statements in which those now involved once said the exact opposite thing.

Hence in attempt to focus on something bigger, there is one aspect within that strikes me as a significant loss for our culture: we have become numb to the value of compromise.

Granted, like the millions of one-time Steven Covey students, I, too, heeded his call to be highly effective. Highly effective people work well with the masses — not simply a percentage-points majority. Highly effective people know Habit #4 — “Think Win-Win” — and habit #6 — “Synergize!” — each especially relevant here…

To “win-win,” a person prioritizes doing what’s best for everyone involved. How can everyone in the room “win,” so-to-speak? 

Interactions are mindful of relationship, with an earnest desire to craft mutually beneficial solutions. A “‘win’ for all is ultimately a better long-term resolution than if only one person in the situation had gotten their way” — or one small percentage had gotten their way. It isn’t about being nice nor finding some quick fix. It’s about basing “human interaction and collaboration” on value and respect.

“Synergize!” recognizes the great good of teamwork. This habit certainly challenges us in regard to working with and even honoring the differences of those around us. As the “12min Blog” reviews: “Synergy makes you assimilate new points of view and achieve positive results by working together.”

Synergy doesn’t mean we all agree nor that we should even have to. Synergy instead creates “a unique solution that combines the best of the parts.”

Note that neither of the two above, highly effective habits embrace compromise. In fact, adherent to Solomon’s ancient wisdom decrying the absurdity of splitting one wanted baby in two, in rare times compromise is both foolish and impossible. 

But my sense is that far too many have taken that too far. They perceive and promote simply the prospect of compromise as foolish and impossible. They convince themselves that they are more moral… more wise… more something. And just like that they dismiss — and disrespect — all others in the room.

Is there room for compromise in the current federal government standoff?

Of course there is. 

Hence…

Mr. President, Congressmen/women, Spokespeople and Leaders of both parties…

Respect us more by showing more respect for one another.

Think “win-win” — not ensuring the ethically-lesser “no-win-for-them.”

And synergize!

Compromise is not foolish. It’s also not impossible.

Respectfully…

AR

why we talk about Tyler Trent

I have a few things here I’ve been waiting ’til the new year to say — some reflections on the year behind and encouragement for the year ahead. But as a proud alumnus of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, I wish to first expand upon the powerful example of fellow Boilermaker, Tyler Trent. His story has gone viral. His inspiration has been deep. 

By now many have heard of Tyler… the smart young man diagnosed with osteosarcoma at the age of 15 — after throwing a frisbee and breaking his arm. When his cancer was in remission, Tyler finished high school and was awarded a prestigious Presidential Scholarship to Purdue. Shortly thereafter, however, his cancer aggressively returned. 

No matter the setback, Tyler was an enthusiastic, devoted Purdue fan. Head football coach Jeff Brohm noticed Tyler, got to know him, and made him an honorary captain his freshman year. His sophomore year, his cancer progressed, and he would have to drop out of school. Even so, Tyler maintained an active presence when physically possible, culminating in being wheeled in on the sidelines during ESPN’s featured Ohio State/Purdue football broadcast. Tyler had predicted a victory for his beloved, huge-underdog Purdue — and Purdue promptly, surprisingly played arguably their best game of the season, blowing out the #2 team in the country.

But the kind of person Tyler was, fans of all teams began to cheer him on — “Tyler Strong” was the frequent refrain. Tyler gained increasingly more attention as his so obvious humble spirit attracted more than an ego ever could. Fascinatingly, Tyler prayed a year ago that he would live to tell his story. And he did.

Tyler passed away in the dawn of New Year’s Day.

“Tyler Trent is the spirit of Purdue,” wrote Travis Miller, the Site Manager of “Hammer & Rails,” a Purdue-focused website. Wrote Miller:

“… When Purdue stunned Ohio State in October it was Tyler’s night. He nearly did not make it to that game, but I am convinced that the energy of that night lifted him these last two and a half months. It sustained him past what his doctors thought. Unfortunately, cancer sucks. Hard. Tyler fought, but now his fight is over.

In the last 15 months the nation has gotten to know Tyler. What amazed me throughout was that it was never about his own fight. When Tyler would tweet it would rarely be about his condition. He only gave updates when they were major, like when he was forced to withdraw from school. Instead, he wrote about about what he could do for others. Here was a young man that knew his time was limited, but he spent every second doing what he could for others. He inspired others. He encouraged others. He strengthened them. His upcoming book is about pulling off an upset of cancer even though it will not physically benefit him. He spoke of how he was encouraged that samples of his tumor might lead to a cure someday, ignoring that meant there was no cure yet for him.

I was always in awe of his humility and his desire to serve.

Mark 10:45 says: ‘For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ This is the example we are called to follow, and Tyler knew what it meant to serve…”

I think that’s what stands out to me about Tyler and why I wished to pause briefly and focus on him today.

It’s not just that the world felt sorry for this young man, dying in his perceived prime; it’s not that his story was so strikingly different than anyone else who has struggled with this awful disease. It’s that Tyler Trent maintained his humility; he embraced his faith; and he encouraged others all the while, never allowing his condition to compromise his conviction.

So many of us/me, we become self-focused… complaining or indignant when something doesn’t go our way… pointing fingers when we’re irritated, offended or when life just doesn’t go right. And yet here was Tyler, who had far more reason than most of us to be all of the above, but never allowed the focus to be about him. He never saw himself as a victim.

When given the Disney Spirit Award at the ESPN’S College Football awards in December and welcomed with an extended standing ovation, Tyler was asked what the moment meant to him. He mustered, “Moment undeserved.” 

Asked then, also, what his message was to the millions who’ve been moved by his story, Tyler shared, “At the end of the day, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. As long as you rely on your faith, things will work out.”

That was only a few short weeks before he died.

So how do we honor Tyler Trent? How do we learn and grow from his example?

Let’s be humbler. Let’s be less self-focused. Let’s be more faithful.

And may we always remember what’s most important. 

Respectfully… RIP Tyler…

AR

the solution in 2019

As we prepare for a new slate of respectful dialogue in 2019 and an earnest desire to be a promoter of efficient, effective and compassionate solution, allow me to share a concern echoed from the year behind, as editorialized by CNN and multiple outgoing senators… [all emphasis mine]…

“As departing senators said their goodbyes to Washington, a number of Democrats and Republicans took the opportunity to express concern about the state of the Senate and the political climate.

‘All the evidence points to an unsettling truth: The Senate as an institution is in crisis,’ retiring Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah lamented in his farewell speech delivered on the Senate floor.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, who was defeated in the November midterm elections, echoed that idea when she delivered her own farewell speech. ‘I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was worried about this place,’ she said. ‘It just doesn’t work as well as it used to.’

‘Something is broken,’ the Missouri Democrat went on to say. ‘If we don’t have the strength to look in the mirror and fix it, the American people are going to grow more and more cynical.’

As senators who were either ousted in the elections or decided to retire and not seek another term reflected on their time in Congress, many expressed dismay at how divided Washington has become as lawmakers retreat to entrenched partisan positions that leave little room for compromise or common ground

But while departing senators had unique messages to impart, the overarching idea that there’s a problem with the current state of politics was a consistent theme.

‘What in the world has happened to civility and to humility in our nation’s public discourse?’ Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat who lost his seat in the midterms, asked in his farewell speech.

‘Tribalism is our problem, and if not corrected, it’s going to take our country down,’ he warned…

As departing senators outlined concerns in their farewell speeches, many described what they believe has contributed to the highly divisive political climate and what they think needs to change.

McCaskill urged lawmakers to have the courage to take ‘tough votes.’

‘Solving the toughest problems will not happen without tough votes,” she said. ‘We can talk about the toughest problems… we can argue about them, we can campaign on them, but we’re not going to solve them without tough votes.’

Nelson and outgoing Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, who also lost his seat in the midterms, suggested that an influx of big money in politics has had a corrosive effect, making an argument common to the Democratic Party…

Hatch, meanwhile, decried “identity politics,” a concept often invoked critically by Republicans, who frequently accuse Democrats of subscribing to it… ‘identity politics is nothing more than dressed-up tribalism’…

In their farewell speeches, departing senators also reflected on fond memories of their time in Congress, and some expressed optimism for the future despite their concerns…”

I believe, too, there exists reason for optimism. However, it starts with:

  1. looking in the mirror
  2. allowing room for compromise or common ground; and…
  3. valuing civility and humility in our discourse.

Here’s to the Intramuralist in 2019. May we always be part of the solution.

Respectfully…

AR