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Vince Mercuri: Conflict, managed properly, can help us all grow

| Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 7:03 p.m.

The current political climate, with widespread conflict escalating in tone, intensity and action, is progressing to a degree that is unacceptable and even detested by the average citizen.

While each side is pronouncing its stance on issues of importance, it is the inappropriate comments, behaviors and general lack of respect that are getting all the attention, and thereby reducing values, principles and positions on central matters to a secondary level.

Our nation has always encouraged the exchange of ideas and beliefs as a means to addressing and resolving complex issues. Today, the exchange of rational ideas and civil discussion is avoided for fear of inflaming or insulting those of a different worldview or mindset. The avoidance of dialogue and debate is unhealthy and potentially destructive for our culture.

For differences to be understood, respected and potentially resolved, there needs to be an underlying basic value of humanity and calm tolerance in the exchange of points of view.

Conflict is normal, inevitable and even a healthy part of relationships. Therefore, learning to deal with such turmoil in a positive manner is crucial.

When handled in a respectful and positive way, conflict provides an opportunity for growth and development of trust, ultimately strengthening a relationship. When conflict is mismanaged, strife can increase, resulting in a deepening of tensions that spiral into a pattern of dysfunction and turmoil.

Managing and resolving conflict requires emotional maturity, self-control and empathy. It can be tricky, frustrating and even frightening. Here are some tips that can ensure that the process is as positive as possible.

• Remain calm. Try not to overreact. If you remain calm, others are more likely to consider your viewpoint.

• Express feelings in words, not actions. Telling someone how you feel is a legitimate and empowering form of communication.

• Be respectful. See value in others.

• Avoid accusations. Generalizations and stereotypes only divide.

• Deal with one issue at a time. Stockpiling and trying to address a variety of topics all at once lessens the potential for resolution.

• Seek common ground. Establish some basis of agreement, if possible.

• Listen. Let yourself hear the concerns buried in the viewpoints of others.

• No hitting below the belt. Avoid attacking known areas of sensitivity, which only serves to promote distrust and anger.

• Know when to back off. Let something go if you cannot come to an agreement, agree to disagree and move on.

• Remain humble. Admit if you are wrong or have misunderstood the issue and learned from the dialogue.

• Be willing to forgive. Unforgiveness is the root of bitterness; resolving conflict is impossible if you are unwilling or unable to forgive.

Our words have the capacity to heal or to destroy; we can build or tear down. The choice is ours individually and collectively as a society. It all begins with each of us in our daily interactions with each other — our loved ones, neighbors, co-workers and even those on the other side of the aisle.

Resolution and compromise are not elements of defeat but steppingstones for a healthier republic.

Vince Mercuri, executive director of the Open Door Alcohol/Drug Treatment Center and Crisis Intervention Program in Indiana, Pa., is a member of the Valley News Dispatch Editorial Board.

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