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Photo by Aurélien — Wild Spot on Unsplash

Zen and the art of Peacemaking: Problems in the space between domains

What I am trying to do with my work is to create maps that will help people have productive and peaceful relationships at work. There’s a fundamental problem with this endeavour: the reason people go to war with each other is that they disagree about how the map should be drawn. The key to peacemaking is to be able to navigate without a map.

Stress inoculation

One of the peacemaking maps that everyone should have is ‘stress inoculation’ map. When the military teaches someone to swim, they tell them that the water will be cold and wet, and that they won’t be able to breathe with their head underwater. When the student gets into the water, they’re unlikely to enjoy the coldness and wetness, and that they can’t breathe underwater. They are, at least, not surprised: some of the difficulty was reduced.

  • You’re going to be tempted by your bad habits, and they won’t work either
  • The person opposite you is going to say things as if they were obvious, and they’re not going to make any sense at all
  • You’re going to be forced to say things that should be perfectly obvious, and the person opposite you will completely fail to understand
  • You’re going to experience intense emotional states
  • You’re going to have to say things that will hurt to say
  • You’re going to have to hear things that will hurt to hear

A problem to look out for

There are five layers of conversation you can have, and therefore five types of disagreement that can arise:

Understand the limits of theory

Peacemaking is only really needed when the theories have failed. Walking the length of the pier will not teach you to swim. The value in peacemaking isn’t in the words, it’s in the working out what to say. I hope this view of the lake proves useful.

Written by

Nick Argall is an organization engineer, structuring activities to help businesses achieve their goals.

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