Original Publish Date: March 15, 2022
It was an ordinary day when my good friend, Robin, and I decided to meet for happy hour at one of our favorite places. Enjoying a glass of wine, we started chatting with three ladies at the table near us. Being about our age, we began talking and laughing about many things that we had in common.
When we started to leave, one the ladies named Lynn, wrote her name and phone number on a piece of paper and told me to give her a call. I gave her my business card with my contact information, and we left.
A few days later my phone rang, and a friendly voice said that she was Lynn, the woman who had given me her phone number. She asked me if I was from Spokane, a city of 250,000 people, about 5 hours away. I responded that I was, but I had moved to the Seattle area 20 years ago.
She said that she had grown up in Spokane, also, but had moved to the greater Seattle area in the 80’s. She then asked me if I knew a man who had the same last name as mine. I was surprised, but I replied that he was my ex-husband from 30+ years ago. There was a moment of silence. Then she completely shocked me when she said, “He is my ex-husband, too!”
As I let it sink in, the past memories began appearing in my mind. Although I had never met her, I remembered her from the pictures I had seen that she was very attractive. I had compared myself to her and in my self-doubt, I imagined her to be arrogant and snobbish. Of course, that was years ago, but I could still clearly remember the insecurity it brought up in me whenever her picture showed up in family albums. And now, here she was, calling me and being as shocked as I was that we had accidentally met. The odds were astronomic that we would meet and exchange cards 30+ years later.
The next day we met in person. Surprisingly, what struck both of us this time was that we actually looked a lot alike—almost like sisters. As we started talking, we discovered that we had many things in common. I disclosed to her how in my twenties I had experienced jealousy and had given her traits that were not true. We both laughed realizing we had much more in common than differences. That was a few years ago and Lynn and I have remained good friends.
Who Are Your Rivals or Enemies?
How often do we make unsubstantiated judgments about people we don’t really know?
As a writer and speaker on workplace relationships, I often discuss how the gossip, rivalry, fear, envy, blame, and victimhood arise in the culture. We cast others as the enemy and proclaim our own self-righteousness. But the person or group we deem as the enemy is different for different people. The enemy is always the person or group that threatens us. This is true for individuals, groups of people and even whole nations.
I believe this accidental, yet synchronistic encounter with Lynn, illustrates how easy it is to cast someone or some group as the enemy simply from our own imagination and fears. I had made her the enemy because I felt threatened on some level. If we choose to recognize it, the “enemy” is actually a mirror telling us about our own fears and weaknesses.
So much dissension and conflict in families, friendships, the workplace, and the world could be resolved and healed if we stopped projecting our fears onto others. Egos battle and compete for power and validation. The solution for rebuilding relationships begins with the courage to look behind our mask and see what fears or insecurities we are hiding. It is our fears that are causing us to blame or attack others, not our strength.
Ask Yourself These Questions
After reviewing these questions can you recognize how frequently you make quick judgments and assumptions and then live as though they are true? People would often rather be right than be happy. Sometimes people make lifelong enemies over misunderstandings and the need to save face.
Suggestions for Healing Conflict and Rebuilding Relationships
1. In the heat of the moment.
The minute you feel irritated, angry, or upset with a person, group, or circumstance--pause and take a breath. It is not easy in the heat of the moment. My experience with Lynn allowed me to look from the safe perspective of being in the past. When we are faced with an immediate anger, fear, or jealousy inducing moment in real time, it takes great restraint to stop. The emotion we are feeling, even anger, is actually disguising fear.
2. Identify the real threat?
Allow yourself to become calm and present, and then ask yourself what is the real fear or threat? Try not to blame and, instead, put a fixed eye on your own feelings. What are you afraid is going to happen? What are you defending? What are you afraid you will lose? Are you trying to save face? Do you feel you will be abandoned or fired (if it is a work situation)? What is the real fear?
3. Self-righteous victim.
This step is hard to do but try to see how you are being self-righteous. And then recognize how in any conflict, both sides see themselves as victims and blameless. Each person has their own script based on their own conditioned past. Actually, conflicts occur because both sides are pointing the finger of blame and both sides feeling self-righteous.
4. Be willing to listen and to give up your judgmental story.
Be open to another perspective. Be willing to see that sometimes you are just trying to win--as if you believe your identity depends on your fixed opinions. It’s okay to change your mind and admit you’re wrong. There is nothing more ignorant than a closed mind.
5. Seek common ground.
In my workshops we do an exercise in which people get in pairs and have a short time to find at least 5 things they have in common. When they share the results to the group, everyone is amazed how much they all have in common. Beneath the images we portray, we all have the same basic needs to be loved, belong, and validated.
6. Practice forgiveness to find personal freedom.
When we recognize that every individual is trying to fulfill their own needs to be loved, we can find forgiveness. Grievances hold us hostage to our own ego needs. Forgiveness happens inside and allows our anger to be released. Forgiveness is the path to personal freedom, authentic power, and peace.
We heal the world as we extend peace and love, one by one, right where we are. The urge to help others comes from love. I teach the BE LOVE Model for leadership and have free resources from my talks and workshops available.
“Be the peace you wish to see in the world.”- Martin Luther King Jr.
Danna Beal, M.Ed., lives in the Seattle, WA area where she is an international speaker, author, retreat/workshop leader, and executive coach. She has spoken to thousands of businesses and conferences and has been on countless radio shows, podcasts, and webinars discussing “Enlightened Leadership” and “Workplace Culture” based on her book, “The Extraordinary Workplace: Replacing Fear with Trust and Compassion.” Her audiences and clients have included: Seattle Science Foundation--Spine Surgeons Grand Rounds, Swedish Hospital and Medical Groups, Kaiser Permanente Grand Rounds, Oakland, CA, AHRA, Orlando, FL, Federal Aviation Administration, Overlake Hospital Perioperative Conference, Radia, numerous physician practices and hospitals. Her website is www.dannabeal.com.