Thursday, September 23, 2010

Animal Conflict Resolution Styles - Which One Are You?

I have been attending a conflict transformation workshop for the past few days and one of the interesting stuff I came across was the use of animal characteristics to illustrate our conflict styles (adapted from Hope and Timmel II, 1995). As I mulled over these I discovered that I am probably a cross breed of lion and turtle. Although at times (like a lion) I tend to dig in and fight whenever others disagree with my opinions (though I must add I am also ready to concede defeat when clearly defeated), at times I do behave like a tortoise and withdraw from a group or refuse to participate in efforts aimed at discussions. This is especially if I feel the other parties are unreasonable or strongly opinionated as not to have an open mind.

Anyway, here are the different conflict styles I learned, where do you fall?

Donkey: Very stubborn, and refuses to change his or her point of view. I have a few friends (and a relative or two here) but I generally avoid such people

Elephant: Blocks the way, and stubbornly prevents the group from continuing along the road they desire to go

Lion: Gets in and fights whenever others disagree with his or her plans, or interferes with his or her desires. I am thinking about Imani, my second 2 year old daughter and especially how she deals with Tamia, her 6 year older sister

Rabbit: Runs away as soon as he or she senses tension, conflict, or any unpleasant job. This may mean switching quickly to another topic

Ostrich: Buries his or her head in the the sand and refuses to face reality or admit there is any problem at all. For some reasons this reminds me of our president

Turtle: Withdraws from the group,refusing to give ideas or opinions. I find this very useful when dealing with a group of donkeys or elephants!

Chameleon: Changes colour according to the people he or she is with. Will say one thing to this group and something else to another. Very common with Kenyan politicians!

Owl: Looks very solemn and pretends to be very wise, always talking in long words and complicated sentences

Mouse: Too timid to speak up on any subject

Monkey: Fools around, chatters, and prevents the group from concentrating on serious business

PS: Pictures are sourced from Google images

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Point to Ponder: Reflecting on the Celebrity Culture

When I was in college, I was an avid reader of Readers' Digest. Apart from the usual witty sections like "Laughter the Best Medicine" "College Rags" and "All in a Day's Work", one of my favorite sections was "Points to Ponder", a section that had profound statements, often about a paragraph long, on life's little lessons. Sadly I no longer see this section on the current South African editions that I occasionally pick up from Nairobi's street vendors. I was so addicted to this section that I would pick up the best of the lot and write them down in an exercise book that I still own over 10 years later (yes, I went to college when laptops were an extreme luxury and we wrote down stuff in our diaries and exercise books!). It was when flipping through this book - now aged with time - that I came across this gem:-

"When I was 12, I read Tolstoy. But I didn't know it was Tolstoy. I was interested in the story, not the author. A real reader, especially a young reader, never cares too much about the author. He wants to read the book and he enjoys it. When people begin to be less interested in the art, they become more interested in the artist."
- Conversations with Isaac Bashevis Singer, with Richard Burgin (Doubleday)

I have noticed a trend with some of my friends where before watching a movie, they ask who is in it. If it is not a superstar name, then they figure it is not worth watching. People go to poetry readings based on who will be there (and then proceed to chat away when the poetry is being read) and not necessarily to hear the poetry. If there is no high profile name in your event, it will be shunned by the media and thus the public. Even in organizations, it is now common to hear people brainstorm on the need to get a high profile name for an event to be a success. It is no longer about the content but rather in whose name the content is affiliated.

I have at times been accused of being aloof to celebrities and other high profile names that I have met in the line of work or socially. I might like your art, writing, music etc, but that does not necessarily mean I have to treat you as if you are more special than us mere mortals.