Strategy or Appreciation?

If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, you’ve noticed the flurry of reports of incidences related to young people. Include fighting in sports, gangs, conflict around the world, and mix in a newspaper editorial about “violence and our ‘depraved video age’” and there isn’t much room for anything else, is there?

Yes, one can appreciate all the work, the studies, the attention in which so many people are involved, in order to try to lessen incidences of violence, and it may be time to take a step back, rearrange our thinking, and look outside the box.

There is an absence of concrete answers, though lots of theories, in the media. Instead, the attention is on getting someone to pay. We need to hurt someone to stop the violence, we think. Heck, we even go to war to stop violence.

But we’ve been doing that for a long time and are expanding our efforts without much success. There is much literature that suggests, with a lot of testimonials, that when we dwell on a problem like it needs fixing, we perpetuate that problem. If that is so, then as the old Pogo cartoon suggested, ‘We have seen the enemy and he is us.’

It is getting clearer that we need a new set of eyes to notice a direction that we aren’t noticing.

It is not complicated. However, it certainly is not easy.

You see, we are social beings and as such, there are things that naturally want to occur, like relatedness, community and communication. That’s the key. They want to happen, and we are sabotaging what is natural.

If we were to ask someone like author, Alfie Kohn, whose years of research resulted in the publication of ‘No Contest’, he would tell us that most of our woes are driven by the incessant striving of ‘competition.’ Our society says that ‘someone has to win and someone has to lose, and that’s our nature.’ Actually, what they say is, ‘winning builds self-esteem and losing builds character.’

From the time our children are very young we encourage them to compete. You have to win at all costs. The toughest put-down for a youngster is calling him a loser.

Alfie’s work shows how we taint everything with the brush of competition, and it is costing us. His recipe for an alternative mind-set is in ‘co-operation.’ His book is an excellent read.

What we also may not notice is the extent to which we try to distance ourselves from the losers, or undesirables, however we recognize them, in our communities. We include them as part of the ‘except for them’ when we examine how great things are for us. There is a personal cost in doing that.

We admit we would love to live in a community and country of compassion, contribution, appreciation, and cooperation. We even suggest that we do…’except for them,’ and we are hard-pressed to come up with any solution so we conclude that it must be their fault. Throw them in jail or out of the country, but get them out of sight because we are afraid of them!

Politicians, professionals and even clergy are looking for their own strategy that might change things. But strategies begin to work only after they evolve into a natural way of being. For example, as a strategy for getting into heaven, “love thy neighbor” doesn’t work. It’s not authentic. There is an inherent background strategy of ‘in order to…’ However, take away the command and simply ‘loving thy neighbor’ works as a real human to human interaction.

There is a body of successful business practices that has been around for many years called ‘appreciative inquiry.’
A recent emergence of this conversation within a Coaching and Consulting organization in western Canada is reporting some very positive results.

The premise is that, in life, we are all doing the best we can with what we have, up to now, and we desire some kind of appreciation. So, the simple part of this technology is to show appreciation. We are not likely to become violent with someone who honestly appreciates us on an ongoing basis.

The not-so-easy part of the process or the ‘being’ part is to show appreciation for…everyone, no one left out! When this becomes a natural way to relate, then watch the difference! And there is no better way to try it out than in our own families.

Now, for those who deal in strategies, this is a strategy that really matters! Why? Because it is not a strategy when it is authentic.

About Rich

See my 'Who? Me?' post.
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