In my work I spend a significant amount of time walking with groups of leaders helping them determine a direction, find solutions, and agree upon desired outcomes. I enter these situations knowing that individuals show up with their own unique histories, perspectives and ideas. It’s a dynamic of human nature. I think of this as the personal fabric that each of us brings. The task is to find a way to connect those pieces of fabric into one mosaic. The challenge comes when someone shows up assuming that their personal piece of fabric will replace all the others. They have no interest in using material other than their own.
In my experience, this happens when an individual is unable or unwilling to compromise. These are typically folks who have not learned how to engage in healthy dialogue. They seem to have adopted a ‘my way is the only the way’ mentality. We see this playing out every day in government, board meetings, community gatherings and certainly with respect to the pandemic. Often times this lack of willingness to compromise is rooted in fear of loss – loss of priorities, of identity, of privilege.
When groups are in the heat of conflict one question I ask is, “What are you afraid of losing if this doesn’t go the way you want?” I ask this not just for the individual to reflect upon, but for the rest of the group to hear the person’s emotional attachment to the outcome. My intent is to both give space for each person’s voice and for us to hear the ‘why’ behind a deeply held position. The goal is to invite compassion for one another in order to form connections based on understanding and mutual respect.
Colleague Mary Kay DuChene, Director of Leadership Development and Consulting for LeaderWise, defines leaders who exercise compassion by these characteristics: • The desire to use power with or for others (not power over) • Awareness of one’s own strengths and challenges • A willingness to consider other viewpoints and possibilities—to check oneself by listening to others and taking in feedback • The courage and sensibility to apologize when needed • A sense of purpose beyond oneself • And all this not for one’s own self-edification, but for the betterment of the world.
These six points articulate how creating space for compassion can break the log-jam of a conflict and provide a path to real compromise. When a compassionate connection is created people feel heard and respected. This defuses defensiveness allowing us to be open to another’s perspective and participate in creating a mosaic from our many viewpoints.
“Leading, especially in changing times, is an action of the surrendered heart. While we cannot predict the future, aligning with the movement of the Spirit through an open mind, heart, and soul allows the future to emerge through us.” – Richard Rohr