Friday, July 03, 2015

Winners and Losers

I used to think that with a bit more effort we could all get along even if we didn't agree on . . . well, whatever. I'm not so sure anymore. 

In some cases the principle of disagree, discuss, negotiate, compromise and move ahead while agreeing-to-disagree does produce peace. Take in our case: making a life change became obvious to both of us so we discussed options a lot, disagreed sometimes on which were the superior choices, explored them together and finally made a choice that seemed to answer most of our hoped-for outcomes. Not all, by a long shot, but most. 

The responsibility for the choice is shared. No one will be blamed if the outcome proves unsatisfactory.

But the ability to compromise, the willingness to accept a decision that doesn't match one's own is not equally distributed. We grow up adopting a “more conservative” or “more liberal” worldview—for arguments sake—and our willingness to negotiate as opposed to insisting is influenced by that. Furthermore, personality differences obviously account for some people's ability to accept a second or third preference and move on while others feel compelled to terminate a relationship if their preferred choice doesn't prevail.

Going into any negotiation with the conviction that there is only one acceptable outcome is to embark on a journey going nowhere. Worldviews do change, but far too slowly to accommodate critical, emerging issues.

I still feel a twinge of happiness when I see that the Montreal Canadiens are doing well; others have similar feelings about the Maple Leafs. But these are differences of opinion that don't require compromise; Habs and Leaf fans have been known to get along just fine, even intermarry successfully. But this example serves to illustrate that loyalties to a team, for instance, are pretty enduring impulses even when the object of such loyalty has changed so much that the continued allegiance makes little sense . . . logically.

If we think of a political party or a church denomination as a team, surely this curious and often undeserved feeling of loyalty and belonging must play a role when disagreements need to be resolved. We have invested a lot over a long time and we want so badly for “our side” to win. Compromising, giving in, being out-voted become bitter emotional pills, hard to swallow.

We're approaching a federal election campaign and the “join our team and win” ads and pronouncements will assail us for the next 3½ months or so. The majority of us will make our election-day choice on the basis of enduring team loyalties, many having decided long before the differences in policies have become manifest. But there will be a minority who never developed such enduring allegiances; perhaps they never had much interest or enthusiasm for hockey, or politics, or church. It's they who will decide the winners and losers in October and it's the majority who will be either deflated or jubilant at the result.

Harmony is not to be expected. It's too dependent on the presence and depth of loyalties, the flexibility or recalcitrance of the personalities involved and the nature of the negotiation when an issue needs to be resolved. Living well despite the chaos that characterizes human interaction ought probably be high on the list of educational priorities. In other words, we need to learn how to drum winners and losers out of our negotiating vocabularies.

This isn't easy; I did so want the Habs to win the Stanley Cup.

No comments:

Post a Comment