December 8, 2009

One reason we can’t all get along…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 8:25 pm

The other night I was talking with a good friend and she – while sharing about a family spat – said something along the lines of:

There are these people over here in this country, and they have their own history, and principles, and cultures and values, and then there are those people over there with all of theirs.  How, when a family with essentially the same upbringing, the same experiences, and everything else they have in common cannot get along, can we ever hope for world peace, or for the nations of the world to “get along.”

(She said it much better than that, I hope she forgives my horrible reiteration of it).

It called to my mind another interesting conversation I had recently with my father and brother (actually two separate conversations that went exactly the same way, with each of them).  Bear with me, because this involves sports…

College football has BCS bowls, to which every team aspires.  All year we have cheered on our hometown BSU Broncos as they pursued a BCS bowl.  BSU is a non-BCS school, meaning they can only get into the big dance through a convoluted path (which I will not go into here).  All year we have also followed the season of TCU, another undefeated non-BCS school.  We have followed them because (prior to Sunday) there had never been two non-BCS schools invited to BCS bowls.

Sunday, both BSU and TCU were invited to play with the big boys in January.  Except, they kinda weren’t.  They were invited to a BCS bowl… to play each other.


The stories started flying about a bowl conspiracy to protect the reputations of the major BCS conferences. After a year of hoping and (in some cases at least) praying for a BCS game, there was collective disappointment at the matchup.

More locally, I was upset, my father was upset, my brother was upset… none of us wanted this game and we felt cheated… and angry.

But then a funny thing happened.  We put ourselves in the position of the bowl selection committee and went through the same selection process they did.

First I did this myself in my head; and much to my surprise – when I looked at is objectively, I made the same match up.  I then talked to my brother, and we went through the process again. *Shock and surprise* he reached the same conclusion as well.  Later that night I repeated the process with my father, and… you guessed it… same result.

In the course of one conversation (or thought process) we had come 180 degrees on this.  Mind you, none of us likes the match up, still.  However, liking it or not, we realized, in their shoes we would have done the exact same thing.

My – perhaps by now obvious – point is that, often the gap between what we want to happen and what actually happens is enough to create anger and discontent.  No one had done anything wrong on the BCS committee (at least as far as we could tell, since we reached the same results), but still… collectively… my family was outraged* with them.

It never ceases to amaze me how often conflict is the result of misunderstandings, rather than actual disagreement.  It seems to me that the first step to solving the quandary my friend outlined so well is simply listening with the intent to understand when others are talking.

I am certain that over half of the conflicts that take place daily – from individual kitchens to the United Nations – could be avoided if people just took the time to put themselves in the other persons position and work through the situation from that perspective.

(I am equally certain this would not solve all of the problems, but wouldn’t it be nice to be working with a shorter list of problems that actually existed beyond perception?)

*twice in the blog I used the word outrage(ed).  In fact there was no outrage, I was choosing this word for (somewhat humorous) effect.  We were displeased, thats about it… we’re kind of a boring bunch that way ;)

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