Last week I had the real pleasure of attending a course run by Forrest (Woody) Mosten on developing a collaborative law practice – I am a consultant collaborative divorce lawyer as well as a writer and trainer.
Forrest suggested that we should strive to make “Peacemaking” our full time occupation. Now, Forrest is savvy enough to know that us Brits bristle at that kind of language. He’s been round the block a few too many times to be surprised by the barely muted sharp intake of breath.
But he raises a fair point. Are we, within conflict management, peacemakers?
My gut feeling is that we are not. In all the years I have worked in conflict resolution and law, I have very rarely, if ever, used the word “Peace.”
That is partly my English reserve, after all, peace is such a big word, it feels like an unattainable ideal.
Secondly, I am still scarred by sharing the same name as the hippy in “The Young Ones.”
You say the word “Peace” and I regress to the corridors of my secondary comprehensive school and the inevitable teasing I had to endure every week.
My more considered response is that I do not see that the making of peace is the goal of conflict management. To me conflict management is having an awareness, and a toolset, to enable us to manage those disagremeents that arise from time to time.
The disagreements themselves are not to be negated, or eliminated. Indeed, one of the biggest problems with conflict is that we don’t spend enough time to understand what is driving it.
If we strive to “make the peace” or “keep the peace” then we risk shutting down those valuable conversations which can otherwise arise out of difficult situations.
Very often the problem is not that we have too much conflict, rather we have too much peace. We need to permit conflict to rise to the surface but we also need to have the conflict resolution skills to respond to it when it does.