Getting Things Done In Spite of Differences

When working with those who are different, be it race, gender, ideology, or background requires the ability to adapt because differences often surface tensions, value tensions, diversity tensions, etc.  Failure to adapt and be flexible results in gridlock, stagnation, and frustration; not only for those involved but also for those affected.  The process can be a challenge but recognizing some key points may help move the process along:

 1.      Never underestimate the power of people to operate against their own self-interest to make a point.  I have witnessed some strange and defeating behaviors during mediations because people preferred to make a point rather than resolve an issue or get something done. 

2.      Self-righteousness does not serve you well.  It is ok to believe that you hold the right position, but self-righteousness is frowned upon in relationship building.  Everything is not an “either/or” proposition, something’s are an “and” proposition.  Multiple people can be right in a discussion.  Practice collaboration versus combativeness.

3.      True relationships are value driven.  People need time to make adjustments in their values.  Be patient, values are established throughout a persons’ life and the process of negotiating with oneself is unsettling.  If you add the dynamic of culture, ethnicity, and generational differences, it becomes increasingly complex.  Success lies in identifying and leveraging shared values.

4.      Try to speak to the moment.  I understand there is an injured child inside, or a neglected mom who set aside her dreams for the family, or a son who could never live up to dad’s expectation; however people need to know who there are talking to in order to get to a resolution.  (Sidebar:  There is nothing wrong with getting help to deal with unresolved emotional issues.)

5.      Are you defining resistance based on your filters?  Is it really resistance or is it concern?  If you frame it as a negative, then your response will be negative.  Are you judging or trying to learn?  Your willingness to reframe your definition and view of resistance may help propel you to resolution.

These suggestions may not get you to a grand compromise, but they will certainly make the process less painful for all involved.


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