I recently got wind of turmoil in my congregation, and without getting into details, it’s completely about lines of communication being severed and people stepping up their defensiveness in response. I can’ t tell you how many times I’ve seen this situation play out over my life. Group A has something to say, Group B counters with something, and then there is this escalation because neither side will compromise or be willing to accept that they can’t find common ground. In my situation, Group C (the congregation leadership) steps in to shut down the discussion (via a online forum) and then all hell breaks loose.
Oh, you say “tomayto”? Your obviously a rotten yankee! It’s “tomahto” , and dont tell me otherwise!
So, what can be said about this? Or perhap: How do I disarm constructive power struggles that engage others while affirming my integrity? That last part about integrity is where all the waters get muddied because, unfortunately, people don’t want to lose face. When ego is on the line, the baby almost always gets thrown out with the bathwater. Most people will stick to their guns and not back down. Conversation turns to vitriol, then dysfunction is the new norm. No one backs down and despite the screaming, no conversations are really being had.
In shouldn’t be a surprise that the fix for such issues has more to do with parking egos. Learning to defuse self-defeating power struggles usually starts by asking courageous and trust-building “good questions”.
“So tell me kind sir, why is the pronunciation of “tomahto” the way we should all say it?
It also means listening to others, and fostering a collaborative atmosphere where everyone feels like they are being heard. Even in a group that embrace diversity (like our congregation), ignoring disciplined tactics during conversations will allow emotions to flare and before you know it hostilities. In a perfect world, none of this would happen because people wouldn’t get so emotionally vested in conversations. That’s not to say we should all be Vulcans, rather that people should seek reconciliation (even if that reconciliation is agreeing to disagree) rather than becoming a warrior for their “just” idea.
The greater issue of ego-driven protection of ideas is the thing individuals need to examine in their own life. Treating ideas as an extension of the body is the fallacy that starts wars. Ideas and the words that form them can have great beauty or can be toxic dumps, but there is no reason to draw swords over their interpretations. In communities where diversity is encouraged, it is important to have RESILIENCE to the ideas we may not find agreeable. And that resilience starts by checking your ego at the door, else every sentence could be one step toward unnecessary conflict.