Each of us can be the Superhero that Changes The World

In this world, something outrageous is happening, conflicts are everywhere and between everyone, and it seems like those numbers are increasing dramatically. It may have been the isolation due to the pandemic, it may have been the war, it may have been the wrong educational models, it may have been the technology, it may have been the failing of the system, but something today, in 2022, is really off. I woke up this morning and everyone is talking about another mass shooting, people killing others, women killed by those who should love them the most, mothers and fathers killing their own children, young kids are victims of bullying from others young kids. The terrifying news comes daily from developed cities in a time of peace, not from a war zone. This is just “madness” that has no answers of why. Personally, it is no longer enough for me to say, “it’s a sick person” or “the system is broken.” I need to try to find what can be done differently to prevent all of this, especially to leave to the new generations a better world. Some might think that this idea is a utopia, but I believe we have the social responsibility to get together and do something.

This article tries to identify the source of this madness that in my opinion is the inability of individuals to handle internal or external conflicts. Moreover, it explores what can be done to become conflict competent. With the help of an imaginary superhero, the article traces a possible path to get out of this madness.

It seems like people wake up in the morning, feel the desire to do something for personal satisfaction to fulfill their needs, and they just do it. It seems individuals are unable to think of the catastrophic consequences of those actions for themselves, the people next to them, the communities, and the entire world. Personally, I don’t want to dedicate a thought or a word to those who despite knowing the consequences of their own actions put those intentions into action anyway. This is evil, and I don’t have the knowledge to talk about it.

I am not an expert of human behavior in general, but after more than two decades of working nationally and internationally with those involved in a variety of conflicts, using alternative conflict resolution methods, I consider myself an expert in how people act when they are involved in conflicts.

I truly think that the source of this “madness” is in the inability to handle conflicts or difficult situations internally and externally. On the other hand, I am confident that we all can learn to be conflict confident following a different method of approaching the interactions between people. To do so, it’s necessary to learn something new and unlearn something already known. Individuals, businesses, and educational institutions need to understand and invest in training to teach employees, managers, students of all ages, and to single individuals to be conflict competent. Preventing and managing conflict is as important as any other technical skill in any kind profession.

Many times, when working with people involved in conflict, I use the imaginary figure of a superhero to help people understand the world of conflict and how to act when they arise to become conflict friendly, or to say it better—not be afraid of conflicts.

The main thing that I notice over and over is the people’s attitude toward conflicts. Individuals don’t realize how conflict is damaging everyone’s mental health, not to mention the devastating economical aspects and the time wasted being involved in any conflict. The majority of individuals disregard conflicts’ effects, thinking they belong to others, or worse, they feel immune to the consequences or they don’t see or underestimate the consequences of the conflicts in their personal and professional life, affecting the people close to them, until it’s too late.

The first realization to be conflict confident is that each individual needs to realize: each action and word have consequences and can generate conflicts or difficult situations in an instant, not to mention what conflicts can do over time. Those consequences affect directly the people involved, and indirectly the people next to them.

To be effective in life, we need to realize we are all connected directly and indirectly. Just take a look to what is happening in the world.

Moreover, with the awareness that conflicts are part of life, we need to know that they can be prevented and managed effectively, this is the second important realization that the superhero shares.

To prevent difficult situations turning into conflicts it’s necessary to change our mindset, attitude, and acquire new skillsets to face them. Aggression, arrogance, and a “one against the other” mindset is not effective and are actually the sources of conflicts, with the consequence of damaging the mental, physical, and economic health of each of us. The good news is, we are all capable of learning new skillsets to be comfortable around conflict and prevent them from happening.

It’s essential to know there is a huge difference in preventing and resolving conflicts. In preventing conflicts from arising, the parties work out new possibilities without the negative emotions toward each other, so they can brainstorm more effectively and they are more openminded to new possibilities. On the other hand, in resolving conflicts, each party needs to handle the negative emotions toward each other while giving up something that they care about and come up with something new or different to terminate the conflict. Generally, if they are involved in the conflict for a long time and identify the problem with the other party as the source of the negative emotions, it can  be  difficult  to  manage. 

Preventing conflicts is essential to building a better, productive, and efficient world, with the result of less madness and more wellbeing. To be able to move in this direction and change, it’s essential to understand the third realization: know why the conflicts arise.

Problems just don’t happen overnight, they are the result of actions, attitudes, personalities, and the spoken and unspoken language of each of us repeated over time. The majority of individuals, it doesn’t matter who they are and what they do, are not equipped to face and handle conflict. When conflict arises, to be able to resolve it, it’s necessary to move backward and follow a path to find out where it was generated. At the same time, look ahead and to the side to see where to go. It’s like driving a car—you need to look in all directions. Often, the people involved in conflicts don’t even know what to do or think because of the emotional involvement. So, to resolve any difficult situation requires knowing what to do and what to look for.

Conflicts arise for many reasons, from cultural differences, misunderstandings, not listening, assumptions, to lack of communication. The major reason why conflicts arise, in my experience, is that the individuals are so lost in their own ego it blinds them to the consequences of their actions. And if they do consider this, it seems they don’t care or overestimate their own ability to handle the consequences. It’s never about themselves, it’s always about others. They can only blame others, blame the system, get the shortcut, blame the community, without seeing that they are part of the system and the community and they are the reason of the conflict or the malfunction of the system. This attitude creates a “snowball effect” that in my opinion is a source of madness that seems to hit all of us, from micro aspects as simple as going through morning traffic to the macro aspects of our executive elite.

We can’t talk about the “burnout” of employees in the workplace without recognizing the need to teach the supervisors to be better leaders and handle conflict in the workplace; we can’t talk about how the new generations are victims of the social media but not teach them how to use it; we can’t talk about negatives and not talk about the positive.

I can go on and on.

Ego, selfishness, the lack of self-esteem, fear, and greed are, in my opinion, why individuals choose to approach any situation in an aggressive way rather than collaborative with each other, and this leads to conflicts and madness, affecting everyone. The Ego and selfishness cause people to stop listening and see what’s going on around the world; the lack of self-esteem and fears bring them to the lack of communicating effectively and assume knowing what others are thinking; greed makes people blind.

Each and every one of us can take a minute to do a self-analysis of our personal or work life and see if you can agree with me.

For sure, it’s easier to blame others or the system for our problems rather than change and take responsibility for our own actions and spoken language.

With that said, and knowing these realizations, in comes the superhero to our rescue.

The superhero knows: prevention is better than resolving.

We can all prevent conflicts through the principles of problem solving in the conflict resolution world. Communication, listening, the power of the verbal and non-verbal language, and a collaborative mindset are the elements to prevent conflicts.

Think first and act later. Observe and listen first and ask questions later. If emotions are involved, take a break, don’t react.

The superhero knows: it is better to manage differences and problems in constructive and collaborative ways, to build something different and new instead of destroying it all, leaving only ashes on the ground. There is never a winner or loser, all are losers when there is a war or a conflict, because the main question is: “How much did it cost to win the conflict?” Well thought out responses to conflict and to difficult situations help us to protect our mental and physical health, as well as the economic damages.

The superhero has the power to switch in an instant the position of the individual performing a wrong action or wrong language, placing them in the shoes of the individual receiving the action. In an instant, the consequences of actions or words are reflecting back to the person who makes them. This will last until the person begins considering the consequences.

In the world of conflict resolution, this is known as: “put yourself in the shoes of the other person.” Personally, when I am helping others to resolve their conflicts, I call this technique “let’s start to think of the consequences of each word and action.”

An example: We are in a toxic workplace where a supervisor or colleague who manages and work with other people is unable to communicate, or lacks leadership skills, creating situations of psychological discomfort and disorganization. In an instant, the superhero arrives, and he/she switches the situation, in which the roles are exchanged. The person who was the victim becomes the executioner, and the executioner becomes the victim. All this lasts until the behavior of the original executioner changes by changing the attitude.

Each of us can use this in any life situation where people instead of using cooperation, empathy, kindness, and generosity are using psychological and physical aggression, selfishness, and rudeness.

The superhero knows: The power of decision-making.

Actions and words have consequences. So, it’s essential to make the right decision. Knowing that every choice has a consequence should allow each of us to think before acting. Take time before making any decision and think if the ability to handle the consequence. The actions, the time, the emotional state, and language are the key elements of the decision—making process. Each of us need to think and act accordingly. Each of us are the only ones in control of our own actions and words, not the actions of others, so act on what is good for yourselves and let go and move on.

The superhero knows: Nothing is as it seems, never assume to know. People perceive reality in different ways.

Remember, the real issue is never on the surface. The conflicts or the situations you are trying to resolve did not develop overnight, and, consequently, they do not have  to be resolved in an instant. Try to work toward understanding the source. Use the technique of questioning to learn and listen to  create a  better understanding. Listen to understand not to reply. Be patient and count to 10. Remember to never assume to know what is happening in another person’s life.

The superhero knows: Avoid Approaching conflict with aggression. Collaboration brings more results.

Never react to difficult situations—act accordingly to your own plan.

To handle aggressive communication, remember that each individual can only control their own behavior, not the behaviors and words of others. You can use the technique of questioning with curiosity to garner more information when people are aggressive toward you. Invest time in saying the right words to communicate, knowing the power of verbal and non-verbal language. Don’t let aggressive people intimidate you, they all are afraid of something and generally have low self-esteem. Maintain your dignity, value your self-worth, choose the right words, and, if necessary, leave the room. The point is not to become a hostage of the other person, and our actions will speak for themselves.

To conclude, if we want to see a better world around us, each of us needs to be the better world. It requires a lot of work and discipline to be able to change our mindset. This is not something you can learn overnight, it requires time to learn, it must be practiced over time and can be applied to any kind of situation. It takes time to unlearn unhealthy communication and behavior. How each of us act and how each of us respond to our opponent can make or break the outcome of the conversation.

Each of us has the choice on how to respond to others or external events and take full responsibility while thinking not only about yourself but of those next to you.

Use your precious time to change and be the superhero to protect the mental health of our community and guarantee a better world to the new generation.

With the help of the superhero, each of us can fight the ego, selfishness, and the arrogance of those who ruin the world, and all of us together can defeat the madness. We need to start now to invest in training to teach to employees, to students, and to single individuals to be conflict competent before it is too late, not only for us but for the new generation.

author

Alessandra Sgubini

Avv. Alessandra Sgubini LLMMs. Sgubini is a professional mediator and an Italian attorney with experience in the field of law, international law, and dispute resolution. She received her law degree from the University of Milan (Italy) and she is licensed as an Italian attorney and a member of the Milan… MORE

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