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What is Conflict?

Most of us try to avoid conflict. It is threatening and perhaps even dangerous. This is a very old instinct.

And it is an instinct that bullies take advantage of. The prototypical bully will test to see if you are afraid. If so, he or she knows that they have you where they want you.

But should we fear conflict? Should we seek to eliminate it from our lives? Or is there something in conflict that we actually need?

Stay tuned. i will address that question.


Sony’s Defense: “Who, Me?”

I have been watching Sony trying to wiggle out of the criticism that it has faced over withdrawing the film “The Interview” undre pressure from “hackers”.

The argument is that Sony — surprise, surprise — is a corporation. As if we did not know! As a corporation, Sony has primary responsibility to its shareholders! Therefore it cannot indulge itself in the emotions of the masses. It must protect itself! You can find this idea in the All In interview of a former Sony executive, 

It is not a new idea. Slave traders made a similar argument – that they were answerable only to their investors. Polluting companies as well, have argued that they must fight regulation in order to protect their investors.

But the fact is that “protecting investors” is a slippery concept. Companies protect investors by building loyalty to the brand as well as just existing in the market. In this case, I don’t think anyone would say that Sony has built loyalty to its brand in the way it has acted. Is it protecting investors by taking legalistic positions in the face of a serious assault on public values? Well, let’s see.

But I can see a plot for a new satirical movie — about the executives of Sony that approved this film for production and then ….  well, we know how this played out.

Update: Ruble Rubble

This is the news today from BI – the Russian  finance ministry is trying to prop up the Ruble  but  —

The currency’s volatility at the moment is severe. The ruble is currently up 3.81% against the dollar (today), after falling around 13% yesterday and 10% the day before. It’s dipping back below 65 rubles to the dollar, after approaching nearly 80 yesterday. It was barely above 50 rubles to the dollar at the start of December, and 33 to the dollar at the start of 2014

On the other side of the Atlantic, Obama announced support for  new sanctions against Russia that were passed by Congress.

So far, crude oil prices are holding below $60 per barrel after a brief pop yesterday.

The Sixers: Loving the Underdog

Everyone said that this would be a disastrous season for the Philadelphia 76rs of the NBA. They were going to lose so many games that the fans would give up on them. And then they went out and lost 17 games in a row. It looked like the pundits were right.

But … even though they were losing, something was happening. The young players started to come together. And with the addition of an unknown player from the d league, the Sixers pulled off 2 wins.  Granted, these wins were against teams with records that are nearly as dismal as their own.

But here is the thing. There is something to talk about now. Something is stirring. They are not just losers. They have moved up a notch. Now they are underdogs. And we all love to cheer for the underdog!

Go Sixers!

The Zero Anger Option

No question about it. The most alarming challenge in managing conflict is controlling emotions. Especially fear and anger. When these are aroused, they are hard to set aside. One has to catch them early on — before they grab hold.

It is easy to understand this, but it is harder to do it. A very funny comment form a therapist.

it is rarely optimal to be angry as much as your culture prescribes, unless your community happens to be Buddhist, Swiss, or Inuit.

But can we get through conflict without the anger? Professionals come closer to this ideal. They learn how to focus elsewhere. Can you? Of course you can .. with a little training.

Reflecting on Inner Conflicts

Recently, I have become aware of some interesting writing about how the brain works. More precisely, how the left side and right side of the brain may or may not cooperate.

The writing was a bout Da Vinci, a man who many think was among the most creative persons in history — if not the most creative. The argument is that Da Vinci had far more nuanced connections between the left and right sides of the brain through his corpus callosum than average people.

Let’s assume this is correct, for a second.  This suggests that the left side of the brain — used to drawing conclusions in time — was more ready to suspend these roles in favor of right side thinking. In other words, there was a less conflicted relationship between mechanical and analytical thinking with unstructured sensory impressions.

This has led me to think about my own thought processes. How often does my life, analytical side talk to and support my right side? Alternatively, how often does it dominate? I found that the degree of cooperation was less than I thought it would be. Or the cooperation that I am aware of was less. That got me thinking about internal conflicts that I have experienced.

One quick thought — the inner conflicts that I have had kept my mind busy. As a result, I was most likely more self-absorbed than the context  called for., In other words, not easily bored by myself. This also likely impacted my capacity to stay focused on external stimuli.

More on this as I reflect more deeply and uncover more information.

A Less than Creative Message

Comcast is a pretty sophisticated company. So it knows perfectly well that it is in conflict on issues of net neutrality. Why? Because Comcast wants to amend net neutrality so that it is free to charge variable rates for different web uses and some are vehemently opposed to this. And now Comcast has found out that the President is opposed to it. Yikes!

So Comcast needs to employ some conflict management tools. It tried this but pretending to agree with the President — hoping to minimize the issues in dispute. And with many issues, that might work. But it didn’t work here because their opponents caught them in the act.

Trying to minimize the issues in dispute is a bad idea when you know that the other side is maximizing them. You just create a new issue — whether you can be trusted. The better way to go is to acknowledge that some find this important and find something else to talk about that is even more important.