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No Sour Grapes in this Conflict

by Lorraine Segal
August 2015

Conflict Remedy Blog by Lorraine Segal

Lorraine Segal

What would you do if someone secretly took grapes from your garden? Would you get mad? Feel like a victim? Blame the neighbors and call them thieves? Put up a fence to protect your property? Post angry warning signs?

All of those are common understandable responses, but they tend to perpetuate a conflict and often lead to escalation and feuding as neighbors defend themselves, counterattack, and blame. Instead, one young woman, Elly Hartshorn took a creative and much more peaceful approach.

Elly Hartshorn started a non profit educationally oriented vineyard in a community garden in one of the city’s poorer areas. It is all run by volunteers, with the purpose of “educating urban people about the realities of wine and grape growing.” The whole project sounds worthwhile, but what caught my attention, and touched my heart, was a conflict they had and how beautifully it was resolved.

Disappearing Grapes

After the Pinot Noir grapes began to grow on their plot, Elly and her volunteers noticed that grape bunches were repeatedly disappearing. Rather than being outraged, or putting up fences to protect the grapes, Hartshorn decided to “plant vines for table grapes near the garden’s perimeter, which the local residents could easily pick.”

Harmony instead of conflict.

What an elegant solution! Instead of creating an “us vs. them” hostility, she understood the needs of the low income residents, who wanted fresh grapes to eat. She provided that and preserved the wine grapes. She built good will instead of barriers.

The same approach works with organizations.

I encourage and guide  the organizational and corporate managers and HR professionals I work with to follow the same kind of process with their supervisors, co-workers, employees:

  • Examine their own (negative) assumptions about the situation and person.
  • Look at the situation from another’s perspective.
  • Engage in creative problem solving that might dissolve conflict and create a positive environment where everyone can get their needs met.

When we can do this, we can all enjoy the sweet fruits of harmony!

Quotes are from the article Wine Country in the City by Jon Bonné —SF Chronicle 8-2-15.

Biography


Lorraine Segal is a certified Conflict Management coach and teacher, specializing in communication and conflict resolution in the workplace. For many years a middle manager and tenured community college professor, she has her own business, Conflict Remedy LLC.

In her organizational consulting, classes, and coaching, she helps people learn new skills, get “unstuck” from negative stories, and shift their patterns of thinking and reacting so they can learn to: communicate clearly, resolve conflict effectively, and contribute to a more harmonious and productive workplace.

She currently teaches at Sonoma State University, Santa Rosa Junior College, and St. Joseph Health Life Learning Center (Memorial Hospital) and works with various businesses and organizations. 



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Website: www.ConflictRemedy.com

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