October 17, 2021

Contentious Times in a Bipolar World

Although we have always had disagreements with those around us, if we are to believe the “media” we live in contentious times in a bipolar world. I agree that many of us reflect this type of polemic existence, and yet, we say we long for peace. We experience this in our homes, in our societies and we are seeing and hearing it play out daily in our own U.S. government and between many governments. As a result, we tend to “line-up” on one side versus the other and expend a great deal of our resources “battling it out”.
I’d like to highlight three simple things that may help us redirect some of our resources toward the positive opposite of contention.
1. Confirmation Bias – We all have a tendency toward “confirmation bias”. This is a well-known cognitive and social psychology phenomenon that informs us of our proclivity to agree with people or ideas that align with our own beliefs…regardless of facts that may suggest otherwise. This is one of our biases that define the way we tend to” line-up” when we experience conflict. Our “bias” is selectively dismissing the facts that are not in-line with our beliefs, therefore confirming our beliefs, erroneously.

2. Conflict Resolution Styles – We choose from five different basic styles of resolving conflicts that are related to two motivations…self-assertiveness and empathy for others:

• Competitive or domineering style – This is seen as a win-lose game and we must win. Most of the motivation, if not all is about self and little to none is about the other.
• Accommodating style – This is seen as maximizing the empathy for others and minimizing self-assertiveness. These are people who give up in the face of conflict and think it is more important to be agreeable.
• Avoiding style – This style is low in assertiveness and low in empathy. These people can be very diplomatic, but they sidestep conflict because even though they don’t want to give in, their dislike of conflict is greater.
• Collaborative style – This style is highly assertive and highly empathetic at the same time. These people don’t mind spending their time and energy on a “win-win” solution, but may invest more time and resources than are needed or deemed necessary.
• Compromising style – This style is intermediate on both the assertiveness and empathetic side. Compromisers tend to bargain in a reasonable manner, but sometimes they move to fast to “split the baby” to come to a solution. Their view can be described as lose-lose, because they see each side having to give-up something.

There are times that a hybrid approach may be our most effective way forward (i.e. Collaborative and Compromising).

3. Negative opposite versus positive opposite (which way ya gonna go?) – I know we don’t like to hear this…but, we tend to put more energy into the negative than the positive opposite of that negative. As parents, if we see our children misbehaving we tend to “go to war” against that negative behavior. If our energy is directed into strengthening the positive opposite (positive or adaptive behavior) we develop more of that behavior than the negative behavior and everyone wins.

In our political system, we elect people who may or may not be well suited for the job and once they arrive at city hall or the capital, they “buy-in” to spending their time and resources on the negative more than the positive opposite. Within our family and our government we need policies that resolve conflict and produce adaptive results that we can live with…not policies that are a reaction to the “other side”.

Whatever your beliefs about family functioning or government functioning may be, please stop long enough to honestly consider how these three areas are influencing your choice and ability to live free, peaceful and productive lives.

I’m interested in your thoughts, so leave a comment. Until next time…Claim your power and expand your dreams! ~ Dr. B

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