Theories and strategies inspired by them for managing conflict are great starting points but the real magic flows from attitude. My sister and brother-in-law recently wrote a book together. Its called: THE STOP – How The Fight For Good Food Transformed A Community And Inspired A Movement. (to learn more visit: http://www.cfccanada.ca/book)
Celebrity chef and good food guru, Jamie Oliver describes the book as follows: “The Stop is an inspiring true story about how a low-income neighbourhood used good food to take charge of its community – It’s a great lesson for all of us.”
The book is the compellingly written story of how their journey and these lessons unfolded from the humble beginnings of The Stop as a simple food bank in Toronto that was struggling to survive and understand its purpose. What struck me most about the book is when Nick Saul, (my brother-in-law) explains how he studied many inspirational authors while earning his master’s degree in sociology. He writes: “Bookshelves groan with the theory behind this “community development approach” to supporting people to improve their lives.”
Nick goes on to describe that although much of this writing was inspirational “none of what we‘re trying to accomplish at The Stop is truly about theory or strategy; it’s more a way of being in the world. Listening to people- whether it’s in the garden, kitchen, food bank or classroom – is the root. It’s a glass-half-full approach that begins from the premise that people are experts on their own lives and, given the right support, have wise and intelligent ideas about how to improve them.
I can not think of a better way to describe my approach to my own work in Conflict Resolution. It begins and ends with optimism and the value of listening. This describes an attitude or “way of being in the world” as Nick would have it.
When I reflect on why there seems to be something fundamentally lacking in relying entirely on theories and the strategies they inform it seems to me that the problem with theories is that they strive to be timeless absolutes that produce certainty in prediction and problem solving. Actually being in the world is different because we are “in time” and excellence in the practice of any skill requires presence more than omniscience. Is this my “newest theory” or just an observation about what seems to work for me? You decide.