Thursday, December 22, 2011

The love factor in a world fractured by conflict

A simple exercise called “sharing the love” or as I like to call it “the love factor” has inspired my work and been consistently setting the right tone in workshops and learning spaces all over South Africa in 2011. Working together with my trusted friends and colleagues within the Young&Able network and consortium of trainers, we have seen firsthand how an experiential learning warm up exercise brings the right “flavour to savour” into our training, workshop and consulting spaces.

In the South African landscape 17 years into our democracy conflict has continued to plague our social circles, in and amongst the expansive cultural diversity of our land. Everyday learning, working, playing, and living spaces are filled with social crashes having the potential to lead to volcanic social eruptions.

In many cases the conflict that underpins people’s everyday existence has lead to actions which result in a culture of greater conflict. Economic challenges on the work front have brought about increased stress, and conflict on the home front and vice versa. In the professional working places mismanagement of conflict and the rage or conflicted-ness of people has lead to actions of violence, and in the worst case scenario even death. In the political arena South African’s have seen a rise in national and local political disputes that have brought about criticism, demise and intense feelings of discontentment with the state of our nation. Conflict is all around us.

Slaikeu and Hasson (1998) explain, “One corporate attorney told us that he viewed the dollars spent on litigation as the clearest waste of money that his organization ever encountered. These expenditures served only to “resolve” matters that usually did not stay resolved, and the money spent was irretrievable- it did not accrue to the bottom line, and it did not help the business grow”(1998, pg. 14).
Conflict management systems, and people who can facilitate dialogue and discussion to curb the need for litigation and disciplinary hearings is most strategic in a context where conflict is rife. Conflict engagement and management must become a skill and at best a craft to ensure that our social spaces are reformed and transformed for the health, wealth and sanity of our people.

“The love factor”, has been an amazing exercise to set the tone for truthful, transparent and deep dialogue. What intervention can we think through or be inspired to test in narrowing the gaps, or degrees of separation that exist between people, based on their differences, disputes and conflict? What can you and I do to bring understanding and sober reflection of conflict within our community, and family spaces? What preconceived ideas will I hold lightly to reduce the stereotyping and demising of people in my every world? How can I share and spread the love?
Inspiring and motivating social interventions must be considered to mobilize a movement of value based learning e.g. respect, dignity, honesty, and courtesy etc., values that bring change and propel change in our social, work, play , and community spaces of life. Conflict need not be the end of us, we can forge new beginnings and realize inspired resolve in the midst of our ruckus, conflict and chaos!

Reference: Slaikeu, K. A. and Hasson, R. H. (1998) Controlling the costs of conflict: How to design a system for your organization. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Seth Naicker

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