NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

November 1, 2013

Conflict resolution for our city

To the editor:

Conflict resolution tip No. 1:

Smile, introduce yourself and invite the aggrieved party to coffee.

My kids fight. No more than normal, though my wife might disagree. I fought with my brother when I was a kid, it all seems pretty normal to me. When I watch them bicker about who did what to whom or why one always gets what they want and I never get anything my way, I think to myself, “Someday you’ll be the best of friends” — someday soon, I hope.

Unfortunately, someday can often seem like a long way off and in the mean time their bickering is really annoying. Hmmm, annoying bickering, sound familiar? Debt ceilings, healthcare, waterfront, parking lots, historic district. Lots to fight about there. How can it be that as adults we can’t grow out of this nasty habit? We’re all intelligent, rational and emotionally stable right?

Wrong.

We’re scared rabbits that cling to the things that make us feel safe, including our ideas and our opinions; and when these get threatened, we retreat to the fight or flight responses of our cavemen ancestry. Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately), there is not much to flee from these days so we’re left with fighting.

Where has that gotten us? From Washington to Newburyport, our society is mired in too much fighting, which leaves little time for doing. So how do you fix this? Well, it takes people who don’t flee and they don’t fight. It’s not in their nature.

When threatened, confronted or cornered, their response is — deep breath — I hear you yelling. I see you waving your arms. I’ve read your 82 emails. Let’s go over here and sit down and let’s talk. Let’s have some lemon pound cake or maybe a sandwich and let’s just talk.

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