The Third C – Community

“Do you see what I mean?” he asked. The frustration in his eyes was giving way to anger.

“We had this all worked out,” he said. “We had a plan. I agreed to give in to most of her demands. In turn, she agreed to be more supportive around the other employees. After the last mediation, everything went great — until yesterday. I’m met at the front door by my assistant with the news that she was chewing out the workers and bad-mouthing the company. I knew I should have fired her before.”

“Why didn’t you?” I asked. I already knew the reason. It had been the key to the agreement we had reached in this very room just a couple of weeks earlier.

“I don’t know,” he answered slowly. “I guess because she’s really talented, she’s capable of superior work, and . . .” His voice trailed off.


“And because we were friends before things started blowing up,” he finished.

“So what do you want now?” I asked. “What do you want things to look like?”

He sat quietly, looking at his hands gripping the edge of the table. He started to speak, but then cleared his throat instead.

“Mainly,” he said, “I just want to be friends again.”

“Do you know why she started acting differently yesterday?” I probed.

“No, I was so mad that I could barely make the call to you to see if we could get back into mediation,” he answered. “I suppose you’re going to suggest that I ask her?”

I nodded.

In a few moments, the two of them were back at my mediation table and he asked that very question. Reluctant at first, eventually she let go and the words flooded out. A poor personal decision, unwanted consequences, and then a loss of control. Her personal time bomb just happened to detonate when she reached work.

“So, that scene at work wasn’t related to me or the company?” he asked.

She shook her head “no” and looked down.

At that, I saw him pull his chair closer to the table and lean toward her.

“Let’s talk about it,” he said.

In that short exchange, I realized I was seeing the third C, “Community,” in action.

3Cs.079Previously I’ve pointed out that the key to dealing with conflict in almost any setting is a commitment to the Three Cs – Communication, Conversation, and Community.

The first two are essential. Through Communication, information flows, people begin to define their positions, and opportunities slowly emerge. Through Conversation, individuals purposefully seek to understand someone and willingly explore and embrace differences. A great deal of trust is generated and with that trust, people find room — space — to deal with their conflict.

But flowing out of Communication and Conversation is a third force that melds individuals together.

COMMUNITY is the shared moment of love and respect that fuels further communication and conversation.

Community is where we remember why peace and unity is important. Community is where we see opportunity emerge from Communication. Community is where we see trust billow into loyalty and love . . . and the desire to pursue further collaboration and relationship.

Community is the place we find the strength and perseverance to come back for one more conversation.

Without my further intervention, the two parties at my mediation talked. This time, it was about more than the workplace. This time, a heartfelt closeness was experienced between friends. Out of the conversation came new resolve on many levels.

From the Three Cs, flowed peace.

S-b Logo.001A commitment to Communication, Conversation, and Community always leads to hard work. Yet, faithfully followed, the path of the Three Cs always leads to a working peace.

You can be an integral guide on that path. We hope you’ll join us  as we unveil our Better Understanding Project.

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No Words

I stood in the line of family and friends, making small-talk and inching slowly forward. When my moment came, I hugged her.

“I am so sorry,” I said. “I have no words to express what I’m feeling right now.”

She nods, smiles fleetingly, and swallows hard. The line presses in behind me and I move on.

Despite the hollow feeling that the “no words” line was hardly sufficient to mark the end of a life, I walked away feeling that the world is perhaps grateful for my occasional silence. Sometimes, finding no words is a blessing.

Just last night I was in a meeting designed to allow people to share their thoughts and feeling. I appreciated so much those words that were shared. I needed the encouragement and the hope. But I also appreciated those in that circle who simply said, “Thanks, but I just need to listen tonight.”

Photo Credit: Creative Commons/mikebaird

Photo Credit: Creative Commons/mikebaird

Today, as I think about friends whose lives are anything but peaceful, I wonder if they might be blessed only with presence. And, if so, what ends I might employ to simply be there.

Words can be soothing. Words can be instructive. Words can be life-saving. But being there drowns out all words.

Struggling with Grace

It was like a signal had been transmitted from the atomic clock.

Students, colleagues, acquaintances, and even a few friends, descended on me with last minute requests. More time to finish an assignment, pleas for help in navigating an administrative maze, urgent calls for recommendation letters, and . . . well, just about anything that didn’t seem to move items off my personal to-do list.

Every time I looked at the growing list, I felt a little more harried and I slowly sank into the convenient and comfortable role of martyr and saint.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons/fabbio

Photo Credit: Creative Commons/fabbio

From somewhere, I heard the question, “Where’s your grace?”

Grace is a long-held virtue of all truly great people. Grace is granting unmerited assistance. Grace is patience. Grace is persistence. Frankly, grace is a slippery object for me to grasp.

True grace creates a defined space that often looks like a peace table or a kitchen table or a coffee table. This space, this grace, is filled with conversation . . . and forgiveness . . . and defined by accountability.

I sometimes wish that giving grace came easy. Honestly, I selfishly wish that withholding grace came easy, too. But the struggle between the two extremes brings value and depth and, ultimately, strength to my relationships with others.

And so, on this day sure to be filled with interruptions, I ask myself, “Where’s your grace?”

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On Disappointment

Photo Credit: Creative Commons/cubmondo

Photo Credit: Creative Commons/cubmondo

Yesterday, I received disappointing news.

Not devastating news. Not catastrophic news. Just disappointing news.

A project that I felt strongly about had been canceled. As I absorbed the message, I felt frustration and some degree of anger. I believed that others had made a poor decision.

Despite the fact that I’ve had many disappointments in my life and pride myself on knowing how to handle them, those first few hours were messy. Gradually, I made the conscious decision to move forward. Consciously, but cautiously, forward.

So, how do you handle disappointment? What path do you choose? What steps do you take?

For me, it goes something like this. When I find myself mired in disappointment, I . . .

  1. Breathe.
    Gather myself. Don’t force the thoughts. Minimize the need for answers.
  2. Take inventory.
    Assess the damage, if any, that the disappointment carries with it. Consider the opportunities the disappointment generates.
  3. Consider my personal contribution.
    Determine both the positive and negative ways I influenced the situation.
  4. Choose the “next right thing to do.”
    Some times, disappointment requires that we retrace our steps and try again. Other times, disappointment teaches us to move on. Regardless of what happens, a positive move is always available.
  5. Don’t let my disappointment be a burden for others.
    Disappointment can be contagious. My approach to that disappointment can be the difference between whether the situation goes fatally viral or hopefully productive.

I wish I could say that I launch into this response mode immediately every time I experience disappointment. Sometimes, it takes a little more time to begin to breathe. But what a relief when I do!

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Violence Brings No Honor

As we witness senseless acts committed against others, we desperately want answers to some nagging questions. The most important of those begin with “Why?”

BostonEarly in the investigation of incidents like that at the Boston Marathon yesterday, we don’t have specific answers. However, we know all too well the more general responses:

  • Someone acted out of revenge.
  • Someone acted from political motive.
  • Someone acted in an incapacitated mental state.
  • Someone acted out of hatred.
  • Someone acted from a state of evil

Or, someone acted because of some or all of the above.

If we were to ask that same “why” question to the perpetrators at this very moment, we might hear words like “duty” and “mission” and “honor.”

But there is no honor in violence.

Regardless of how high an individual might want to exalt their violent acts, honor is simply absent. And it doesn’t matter where we find the violence. It’s always wrong.

Some responses to the misguided behavior of others result in violence. Yet, our law enforcement and military experts will always tell us that a violent response is only appropriate as a last resort.

Setting bombs that will kill or maim people, whether they’re on a roadside in Afghanistan or in an urban setting like Boston, are not actions of last resort. Acts of aggression are never appropriate.

Since there is no honor in violence, our course now in the shadow of this tragedy, is one of reason and purpose. We should:

  • Concentrate our efforts on assisting the victims and the families of this violent act.
  • Encourage the investigation that will bring those responsible to account for their actions.
  • Support systems of justice that enforce the principles and values of a civilized people — even in the face of those who choose to act in an uncivilized manner.
  • Begin preparing a place of forgiveness in our hearts.

I know that many who read this will feel an understandable revulsion to the idea of forgiving those who kill and maim innocent people. Remember that forgiveness does not erase all consequences. Forgiveness works its wonders even when our “side” is completely innocent and doing what is fair and good. Forgiveness releases the person who was wronged to live a life of honor and without fear.

Forgiveness and the pursuit of justice are what make us the good guys. We must not confuse justice with revenge. True justice carries with it honor.

And honor cannot exist where forgiveness fails.