A Minute of Silence More Productive Than an Hour of Debate?

We continue in hot pursuit of communication excellence with this week’s blog on disarmament, i.e., disarming those who are intent on creating conflict. Let’s begin with this parable….

A clever African sage and trickster named Edshu was strolling on a piece of land disputed by two farmers. The conflict between them had raged for months, grinding to an impasse. Both farmers noticed the strange wiry Edshu, who was wearing a funny hat. They didn’t quite know what to make of the intruder. The presence of Edshu compelled the two combatants to engage each other in conversation for the first time in weeks. “Did you see that man with the funny blue hat?” one said to the other. “It was a red hat,” the other replied. “No, it was blue. I saw it with my own eyes!” shrieked one. “That hat was red, I tell you!” snapped the other.

As the argument heated up, Edshu suddenly appeared and flung his hat on the ground. One side of the hat was red, the other blue. “You have now seen both sides of my hat with your eyesight. Now, take a moment of silence to see the other side of the dispute with your insight. As is with my hat, you are both right.” The farmers settled their differences on the spot by creating a co-ownership agreement to share the land for mutual benefit.

In this example, Edshu cleverly employs two very effective strategies. He uses his hat as a simple device for a “pattern interruption,” breaking the long pattern of conflict between the farmers and compelling them to engage each other face to face. Then, the element of surprise and the lesson of the two-colored hat, humbling the contestants into mutual soul-searching and resolution. Silence gives both sides a chance to catch their breath, regroup, and re-think their positions. A temporary detachment from a heated argument can cool emotions and allow reasoning to prevail, new perspectives to take seed, and a realization of the relationship with the other being more valuable than the disagreement. Silence is golden!

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