Welcome to HEN - Transforming Conflict for our Health, Environment, Negotiation
HEN is published each month by Julia Menard:
Helping the Workplace Engage - One Tough Conversation at a Time! juliamenard.com
HEN arrives at the full moon -
because light transforms darkness.
Full Moon: November 14, 2016 - Year 14, Issue 11
Table of Contents:
1. HEALTH - Grief as Medicine - Digesting Grief
I went to a workshop a few weekends ago put on by songwriter Laurence Cole. One of the days was about grief and it involved singing and dancing and sharing from a deep communal place. I learned a lot about grieving that day, and I already believed I knew quite a bit.
When my Dad died in 2000, I joined a Hospice grieving group. It was a six week journaling group, where we would meet and talk about the person we lost and we would do art, share music, sing songs and cry. There was always lots of crying. At first I joined because my father lived across the country from me, and I thought if I didn’t do something to acknowledge his death, there was a good chance the whole event would simply just pass by. As I think on it, perhaps being with my Dad when he was dying and when he actually died, was the first gift and initiation into this world of grieving.
Although I joined the group to honour my father, soon after, I found something warm and rich and compelling about listening to these stories of loss and journeying with each other to the other side of that pain. In fact, after 6 weeks, none of us wanted to stop. So we asked the facilitator if she could run a special group, just for us, for 6 more weeks. After these 12 weeks of grieving, 3 full months, we were still not satiated. We could have gone on for more, but the facilitator had other obligations, so we started to meet on our own weekly. That practice petered out, as many self-led groups do, but the whole experience stayed with me. There was a richness in our gatherings, emanating from the engagement with our creativity, our storytelling and our pain together in community.
This recent day of grieving in the Laurence Cole workshop was reminiscent of the grieving time in the journaling group. What I learned this time is that we are meant to grieve as a natural way to honour life and death – the twins of the same coin. And we were meant to do so in community. That was clear recently as I found myself able to connect with grief inside me I never knew existed. And, although that can sound a bit morbid (why would anyone want to purposely connect with grief) it was richly satisfied. It was satisfying in the way it must be satisfying for someone to run a marathon or hike up a long mountain. There is effort, no doubt about that, but it is good effort worth the reward. That’s what grieving seems like to me. Good effort and worth the reward.
In this season of disintegrating leaves, trees, life – it is good to acknowledge those who have gone before us. It is also the season to acknowledge what we have lost – friendships, capacities, memories. In the workshop recently, it occurred to me that grieving is like digesting food. We must eat – but just as important is the disintegration of the food in our digestive system. We live. We die. We transform.
“Grief is not a disorder, a disease or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve.”
… Earl Grollman
2. ENVIRONMENT - Climate Change, Overpopulation, Ocean Dead, Wild Animals Gone
As I wrote out the title to this article, I felt my stomach clenching. These phrases aren’t just alarmist comments. Each is backed by many people – researchers, scientists and journalists. I’m not saying that to justify these possibilities as facts – only that they are there in our collective discourse. Whether they are all true, partly true or not true at all – they are in our consciousness. And, how does one deal with this level of devastation? It’s not like one nuclear holocaust but a multitude of them.
I don’t have an answer other than to return to my fundamental belief that life is ultimately good. Plants turn toward the sun. Mothers and fathers love their babies. The sky, the forests, the oceans, the rivers, the wind, the air, fire and water – all bring gifts of beauty, majesty, wonder and delight. Each can equally be unfathomable, too strong to sustain our human life, scary. What I don’t understand, I can fear. I don’t understand what is happening to our ecosystem. We do seem to be in an eco-collapse – for our species and many others. I don't think it’s about “turning it around” anymore. It is what it is.
So what matters? What are we to do?
To me, it is much like facing the truth of death and dying that I spoke of in the previous article. Cycles come to an end. The cycle of our species and the support of certain life forms on this earth are ending. And, even when we all know we will die one day, to live with death on our shoulder makes us embrace life all the more exquisitely.
“We cannot banish dangers, but we can banish fears. We must not demean life by standing in awe of death.”
… David Sarnoff
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3. NEGOTIATION - It's Everybody's Conflict
I was co-teaching a Mediation course today and we started talking about how important the role is of those who may not be directly involved in a conflict, but are in a “by-stander” role. You are a by-stander if someone comes to you to complain about a co-worker, colleague or friend. You are a by-stander if you witness someone else being hurt. You are a by-stander if you are a witness to any kind of conflict.
In our individualistic culture, when someone is involved in conflict that doesn’t directly involve us, the accepted wisdom is that it’s “not my business.” In fact, we can be seen as busy-bodies or meddlesome. So our collective mantra becomes: "I better stay out of it."
However, Barbara Coloroso, best known as a parenting expert, thinks differently. After spending time in Rwanda, she dived into the links between genocide, bullying, the bullied and the bystander. She found a direct correlation between the dynamics of school yard bullying and the dynamics that eventually lead to a genocide.
One key insight she found was something called the “trap of comradeship” which occurs between the bullied, the bully and the bystander. Although I find the word “bully” to be a loaded, emotional term that tends to cloud the actual behaviours being talked about, Coloroso’s perception that the broader community has a role to play in active peace-making resonates deeply.
Coloroso has created a taxonomy of bystander roles starting with the “henchman” - someone who might not want to harm another, but was raised to please, especially those in positions of perceived high status (having started pleasing with their own parents). Then there is the active bystander - someone who might participate indirectly. In the workplace, it could be passing along a negative story, but isn’t an instigator. Coloroso also identifies the passive bystander - someone who might not participate in any direct way, but laughs about it in private.
Most surprising, Coloroso calls the “disengaged onlookers” as the most “dangerous” group. This is the person who observes behaviour out of the accepted norm and ignores it. They might say: “It’s not my problem" or “none of my business.” It’s the “boys will be boys” comment - or “girls just want drama.” It’s the accepted norm in our society.
She then identifies more constructive roles bystanders can play. There is the “potential defender” - the person who values civility and compassion but is afraid to take action. Coloroso sees the most powerful bystander role as the “brave-hearted witnesses, resisters, and defenders of the target.” These are the people who may have some social status themselves but are willing to pay the cost to defend another from any targeted behaviours because of race, gender, inequality, etc.
Coloroso believes it is this kind of active bystander who can break cycles of violence. She points out that when a brave-hearted witness acts, this can give a potential defender the courage to take action as well - helping to shift a culture from top-down, power-over to a more caring team, culture, community, society.
Listening to Coloroso’s Ted Talk on the subject has raised my own awareness of the moral responsibility that comes with being a member of a community.
Where can you speak up?
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
… Edmund Burke
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Julia Menard, B.A., Cert. Con. Res., P.C.C.
Leadership & Conflict Coaching, Mediating, & Training