There’s a pattern I see that shows up everywhere. I’ve seen it in every organization I’ve worked with, and to some degree with every single client. That pattern is this: at some level, we have a tendency to see the negative in a negative situation.
That might seem obvious to you. Of course you do, right? It’s a negative situation. So you see the negative. But the reality is almost every negative situation has a positive opportunity — we just don’t always see that part. The bottom line is, we find what we are looking for. If you focus on being afraid, you’ll find reasons to be afraid. If you focus on being angry, you’ll find reasons for being angry. And don’t get me wrong — it’s not that those reasons aren’t valid. There are very valid times to be scared, upset, angry. But does that always serve us? And how could we shift our world if we dared to focus on something else?
When there’s a conflict at an organization, often the solution is to try and separate the conflicting parties. Just pull them apart — avoid the conflict. That’s easiest, right? But it accomplishes so little. It misses a powerful opportunity to connect and learn from each other.
How can we get through conflict with connection instead of separation? This is a problem everyone faces, in personal relationships, at school, at work — and as you all probably are all too aware of, on the national level as well. The division in our culture is off the charts. But if we can’t solve this problem on a smaller scale — at home, at work, with our friends — if we can’t learn how to move through conflict with learning and positivity on those levels, what hope do we ever have of accomplishing that on the national level?
Again, I’m not promoting ignorance. We can and should recognize that bad things can happen. We can and should recognize that these situations are hard. But that doesn’t have to be our focus.
How often are we missing learning opportunities by focusing on the stress or pain? And what would we see if we dared to shift our focus to something more positive? What if, in any conflict, the first questions were What is working? Or, What do we agree on? Or, What are we trying to attract here?
If it’s true that we find what we are looking for — and it is — let’s look for things that work. As Abraham Lincoln said:
“We can complain because the rose bush has thorns, or rejoice because the thorns have roses.”
What do you want to focus on, the thorns or the roses? Both are real.