Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Here's How To Solve Your Problems

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Never make a defense or an apology until you are accused.
- King Charles I, of England

Wasn't Charles beheaded? Maybe he would reconsider this statement and his policy if given the opportunity.

His intention was to avoid bringing attention to something that others may never find out about. Heaven forbid the king (or anyone) should admit making an error or a bad decision before it's absolutely necessary.

It could, so the thinking goes, raise more problems than it might solve to admit to something or to offer a defence for something that no one knows about ahead of time. This policy has been adopted fully by both business and politicians in modern times. Never let them see you blink. Or sweat.

The trouble with this kind of thinking is that it only lasts just so long until the entire system breaks down because too many people are hiding too much information for fear that they will be punished. Does the concept of "hiding too much" ring any bells? If not you haven't been paying attention to the news for the past decade or more.

You may have experienced this yourself, if you have siblings, when something goes wrong as children the first kid who gets to tell his story to mom first is believed while the other(s) almost always get blamed, punished or suffer in some way.

That includes admitting to having done something wrong so that you get to offer an explanation before being caught or before a brother or sister tattles on you. The first one to tell their story to mom usually gets off scot free. No one has a good explanation for this, except that it's human nature.

This "first to tell mom" thing doesn't just work for kids. It works for adults too if they know how to use the method properly.

Politicians about to be charged by police will often confess to something less serious and ask for the understanding of the public and their supporters for having foolishly committed some illegal act. The right sympathy act works so well that some return to the political arena, absolved of their sins, and get themselves re-elected.

Who will be treated more severely, the spouse who confesses an indiscretion to the other spouse and asks forgiveness or the one who is caught red-handed? Neither will turn out well, but one clearly will have less severe consequences.

In the case of a sexual affair, I must wonder why the spouse whose sexual needs have not been satisfied doesn't discuss the problem with the other spouse and turn to a professional, if necessary, to help resolve their problem. Not a hooker, I didn't mean that kind of professional.

Marriage was never intended to be a commitment to sexual abstinence, though that often happens in marriages, often resulting in divorce. Talking or counselling might avoid the whole problem, but people are afraid to admit that they have sexual needs that their partner isn't satisfying. So they look elsewhere and feel hurt--and hurt the other--when they get caught.

The best way to head off a problem of guilt is to avoid committing the guilty act in the first place. Most times the only way to do that is to discuss the problem with the other party. That other party could be a boss, a neighbour, a workmate, a fellow worshipper, another club member, just about anyone.

Talking works. It avoids personal conflicts and hurt feelings as much as it avoids wars. Wars almost always result when the talking stops or when one party to a negotiation deceives the other while pretending to discuss peace--as the Japanese did prior to Pearl Harbor.

Some people say that compromise is a form of losing. Those people experience many conflicts. They are the people who start wars.

Compromise, usually called negotiation, is a form of peacemaking. Anyone who equates making peace with losing is severely emotionally underdeveloped.

Peace never comes to those who will not talk about the problem. Peace never comes to those who do not understand the problem. Not understanding the full extent of a problem often happens to those who will not discuss it with the others involved because they only know one side of the problem, their own. Every problem has more than one side, more than way of assessing the "facts."

Peace, be it personal or at the international level, isn't a difficult concept to achieve. However, it does require the use of words. And thought, tolerance and understanding. It also requires a level of strength as wimps seldom get what they want. Even wimps can learn strength through discussion.

The first step to solving a major problem is to admit that the two (or more) parties have the problem. When that part if out in the open, the biggest step toward solution has been taken.

Then keep talking about it until everyone agrees to a solution. Remember, juries don't come out of their seclusion having beaten each other up and they rarely come out without a unanimous decision.

Talking works. It's for people with hearts.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to teach important concepts like peace, good, right and wrong to children.
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