The way we live now
Yesterday, my friend Marju said that getting into conflict is like falling into a well. She has a point.
Over the last several days, I have noticed more than the usual number of articles in the digital media ranting about what other people write. Bill Keller went nuclear, for example, about “knuckle dragger” tweets concerning an alleged NYT double standard about digital piracy. He wrote
Whether or not Twitter makes you stupid, it certainly makes some smart people sound stupid.
And Bill has a good point on the merits. Today MG Siegler writes
Most of what is written about the tech world — both in blog form and old school media form — is bullshit. …
Hmmm … doesn’t sound like digital nirvana. And it is not surprising. With social media entering our routines, we create more content faster. But speaking and writing faster do not produce more meaningful dialogue. At the same time, we are not about to go back to the good old days when events moved more slowly and we all had time to reflect before we picked up our quill pens (err … were things really ever that way?). Moreover, the trend is that we will need to use digital media more — not less — and to do it in new ways. For example, using video. The conclusion is a bit sobering: the risks from using digital media poorly are likely to grow. And as we do more work across cultures and over distance, well, the risks are likely to grow faster still.
So, it may not be a bad idea (especially for younger persons out there) to reflect for a moment. Are you up to this? If not, working to upgrade your communication skills might find a place on your “to do” list. Errr … like taking a course in negotiation? Definitely! Better yet, by taking MY course in negotiation.
Now, how is that for some good old fashioned blatant self-promotion!
FOLLOW - And about that “falling in the well” metaphor — getting into conflict warps dialogue over time. Not just for the moment, but as part of our ongoing history. It is sticky. This can have disastrous long term effects where positions harden and relationships wither over a period of years. Don’t believe me? Well check out Paul Krugman today on why the candidates for the US Republican Party nomination for president all seem so weird. He writes
For decades the G.O.P. has won elections by appealing to social and racial divisions, only to turn after each victory to deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy — a process that reached its epitome when George W. Bush won re-election by posing as America’s defender against gay married terrorists, then announced that he had a mandate to privatize Social Security.
Over time, however, this strategy created a base that really believed in all the hokum — and now the party elite has lost control.
The point is that today’s dismal G.O.P. field — is there anyone who doesn’t consider it dismal? — is no accident. Economic conservatives played a cynical game (over an extended period of time), and now they’re facing the blowback, a party that suffers from “severe” conservatism in the worst way. And the malady may take many years to cure.
I get a headache when I start to think about the various conflicts that have been work here over the years — and not just among republicans. These are likely to fester if not get worse. Very complicated. Very messy. And in the end, not productive.
Perhaps the US can afford this type of distraction. But most of us and most of our institutions are not so lucky. We need tools to manage conflict more efficiently. Notice I did not say eliminate conflict. That is neither possible nor desirable. To be blunt: sometimes, conflict is needed. Too bad for us, but that is one of the realities of being human. But just because we need conflict from time to time, doesn’t mean that we need to wallow in it. Conflict management tools help us strike the right balance.
2d FOLLOW - Last night my friend Liam showed me a set of six 18th century Hogarth prints that comprise a series called “marriage a la mode”. Following the story line, one gets the sense that the “good old days” that I referred to above were not so good after all.
As a lawyer, this scene in the fifth print in the series got my attention
… the new Earl catches his wife in a bagnio with her lover, the lawyer, and is fatally wounded by the lawyer. As she begs forgiveness from the stricken man, the murderer in his nightshirt makes a hasty exit through the window.
Good Lord! A bagnio? And done in by the lawyer! Who then will handle the estate? Perhaps that question is on the lawyer’s mind as he peeks back from the window. Just for fun, here is the image from Wikipedia