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Conflict and Compromise vs. Collaboration and Synergy


Humans, by nature, perceive differences between ourselves and others as a basis for conflict.  We see this phenomenon of conflict born of differences throughout the human socio-cultural and political realm, to include conflict between races, religions, and even genders.   


Our identities, self-worth and security become anchored in belonging to a specific group and the “rightness” of the beliefs, values and practices of that group.  We naturally respond to differences between our group and others’ groups as a challenge to our own rightness, self-worth and security.  We then naturally respond to defend our position and challenge the validity of other’s beliefs, values and practices. 


We bond to the groups with whom we identify by valuing the ways in which we are similar to the other members of our group and the ways in which we are different and therefore better than other groups.  We deepen our sense of connection to our groups by valuing (identifying as right and good) our similarities in beliefs, values and practices and devaluing and challenging the beliefs, values and practices of others’ groups.   This pattern is similar whether our identified group is a gender, political party, ethnicity, religion, team affiliation, profession etc. 


We are so comforted by this need to belong to a group in opposition to another group that you hear it reflected throughout our language and culture.  One of the most obvious examples of this phenomenon is that the phrase “Battle of the Sexes” shows up in the media on a regular basis.  This is in spite of the obvious dynamic that men and women were made to bond with one another, to develop a balanced perspective on creating a successful family community and shared life.   


So for example, in the case of gender based perspectives, we identify ourselves as members of our gender group.  We then tend to refine our personality around the beliefs, values and practices of our gender group.  We will then promote the beliefs, values and practices of our gender group in opposition to the other gender.   


The Flawed Conceptual Framework of Conflict and Compromise 


Conflict is based on the belief that our own group’s perspective is the ideal right perspective and the solution to the problem and that the other perspective is flawed, naive and dysfunctional.  Therefore, our goal is to get as much of our own biased solution implemented as possible.   


The flaw in this line of thinking is that our group’s (or in this example our gender’s) ideas are born of our own philosophy and biases.  This means that our ideas are driven by a singular perspective and will likely lack balance and not be the best solution for the community.  Solutions born of this conflict model lack the sophistication and balance necessary to generate truly viable strategies that fully address the complexity that is needed in most situations, esp. regarding political issues.   The most functional solutions are born of an integration of our own perspective and the counterbalancing one. 


The conflict and compromise model suggests that we must do all we can to defeat the other group and achieve as much as possible of the solution we favor.  It does not consider the complex process of a balanced solution, except in terms of how much we have to compromise with the other party to arrive at a solution.  In the compromise model, we eventually settle for a solution that gets us as much of what we want as possible, without prioritizing the truly optimum integration of the two perspectives.  Compromise is a situation where no one really gets what they want and the solution lacks the balance and sophistication required in most political decisions. 


The Advantage of Collaboration and Synergy 


The collaboration and synergy model starts with the premise that each perspective (philosophy or bias) has something to contribute to an ideal solution and that the two perspectives are not actually at odds.   Collaboration starts with the need to truly understand the other party’s perspective, how they perceive the problem and what they believe to be the solution.   


Collaboration and synergy suggest a perspective that all parties are respectfully working together to find an optimum integration of solutions that will be superior to, and more balanced, complete and effective than, either party’s original solution.   


The Attitude, Approach and Actions of a Synergy Solution 


The synergy attitude starts with a calm belief that the best solutions to complex political problems are not found within one perspective, but rather through an integration of counterbalancing philosophies.      


The synergy approach is one where we first strive to understand the perspective of the other party and then strive to be understood.  Others are much more likely to hear our perspective if they perceive that we truly understand theirs.   


Synergy Actions suggest a style of communication which is respectful of others’ beliefs, looking for a solution that is superior to either party’s starting point.  If attempting to reach a synergy solution through normal discussion leads to conflict or impasse, then both parties need to agree to use a more formatted style to collaboratively reach a synergy solution:  


  1. One party (the presenter) shares his/her view of the issue and their solution.  These explanations need to be presented in a calm and reasonable tone, with no hostility or sarcasm.  No language should be used that is denigrating or judgmental about any individual who is speaking, their perspective or their actions.   

  2. The other party (the listener) gives back to the presenter his/her understanding of the problem and proposed solution, with no denigrating or judgmental terminology and in a calm tone that has no suggestion of sarcasm or hostility.    

  3. Only once the presenter is satisfied that the listener understands, can the process change direction and the listener become the presenter.   

  4. Once each individual has shared in the first round, then the same style of communicating continues with a presenter and a listener.  In turn, each presenter is able to share his/her understanding of the inconsistencies in the perspectives on the problems and solutions, why certain solutions won’t resolve the problem and what might be done about it.  The process continues, trying to refine their shared understanding of the problem and propose optimum solutions.   

  5. Finally, a solution is agreed upon which optimally balances the best of both perspectives, to create a truly synergistic solution. 

  6. Patience is a significant part of this process.  Getting frustrated sabotages the process. 

By Dr. Patrick Quirk

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