Some research on the expression “mending fences” indicates that the derivation is from the proverb “Good fences make good neighbours”. It is apparently listed by the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations as a mid-17th century idiom. My source states that Robert Frost gave the proverb a boost in his 1914 poem “Mending Walls” when he used the above expression to essentially mean rebuilding previously good relationships. There was a slight aberration in the late 1800’s when mending fences came to mean ‘looking after your own interests’. In the 20th century the original meaning resumed.
I have been wondering about this metaphor – mending fences – and that the visual of a fence being mended, when it comes to conflict, could have multiple meanings. If the mending of a conflict situation is done half-heartedly, in haste, to ensure something doesn’t get in or out, or with ‘tools’ or ‘materials’ that could break easily, the success of any efforts to re-establish something durable and viable is likely to be short-lived.
On the other hand, efforts that come with the intention to strengthen what was lost, to create an enduring bond, to be well-fortified, and to able to withstand harsh times results in a more constructive and solid fence-mending.
It is suggested that both scenarios apply to how we mend conflicts. For this week’s blog, please consider a dispute about which you would like to mend fences – in a lasting way:
What does the metaphor mending fences mean to you regarding the dispute you have in mind?
What part(s) do you want to mend most?
Why is your answer to the above question especially important to you?
When the fences are mended between you, what do you want to feel like about the other person that you do not feel now?
What do you want the other person to feel about you?
When the fence is mended how do you want your relationship to be?
How may the other person describe fence-mending that is different from your description?
What may be the same?
What do you want to ensure does not happen in the mending process?
What connector tools will you use to ensure the fence is mended well and in a lasting way?
What other ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) may you add here?