Humans are critically disputatious, competitive, opportunistic and
aggressively advance their vested interests. Conflict is the one certainty
of human life. You can be sure that no matte where you look, you will find
conflict in many shapes and sizes everyday. Conflicts are cognitive-emotive
structures built from a few common tendencies – to compete, posses and prevail
using anger, projection, case-making, blame, denial and rationalization. A
typical human response to criticism and blame is to become angry and fight to
defend honor and prestige.
If your theory of conflict started and ended with the dynamics of anger, you
could not go wrong. In the simplest analysis, humans maintain peace by
inhibiting anger. Conflict is easy to recognize when anger is expressed. Anger
disrupts even the most loving, intimate relationships. While most conflict leads
to confrontation, only some conflict leads to overt, physical fighting.
Conflicts can be resolved by timeouts, change of context,
negotiation, mediation and separation. An overwhelming problem is the need for
victory. When a loving couple enters an argument both participants want to
prevail and the conflict escalates as each tries harder and harder to win. A
simple solution to an argument is for one or both sides to concede.
Training to reduce and resolve conflicts involves learning to convert the
innate structure of win or lose into win-win outcomes. As soon as a combatant
realizes that winning is losing and losing is winning, then the substance of a
conflict can be shifted. Win-win solutions to conflicts require creative
thinking, concessions and compromises. These requirements are hard to achieve.
The linkage is to learned skills of self-control, empathy and compassion.
One major is obstacle, innate narcissism, the inability to accept criticism
or admit to errors, must be fully revealed, understood and ultimately
Complaining and Case-Making
Humans are tricky animals. You really have to be careful what you say and to
whom. Every human is evaluating every other human critically every moment of
every day. The easiest conversation to have with a fellow human is to share
grievances about a common rival or enemy. The preliminary moves in most new
conversations probe the possibility for common enmities. Trivial complaints are
safer than major grievances. You have to be quite sure of common ground before
launching a major assault on a mutual friend or family member. If you are
persuasive, you can convert a neutral audience to share your enmity, but be
careful, because you audience may go down the street and turn the tables on you.
Humans often have difficulty distinguishing between internal and external
causes of dysphoria and most often look outside to explain why they are feeling
badly. The tendency is to project internally driven dysphoria into the world
outside, blaming someone or something for the inner state. The explanation given
for blaming the other person is rationalization – an argument that is
constructed reasonably but is based on a false premise. You make up a story
which explains why you feel the way you do. Conflict ensues if the recipient of
blame notices the claims made against him or her are unfair. The first conflict
fuels a new and recurrent conflict. If the relationship continues, the
participants experience an expanding repertoire of dysphoric feelings and
irrational arguments. Couples who stay together tend to develop a stable set of
conflicts, based on blaming each other for unpleasant experiences, hopefully,
retaining some neutral territory where they leave each other alone.
Complaint stories have a general form and it is difficult to find humans who
do not complain. It is easy to find humans who complain all the time about
almost everything and everyone they encounter. Humans complain together as to
establish affiliation and shared complaints can become an enduring social bond.
Within small groups, complaints are daily negotiations for social status and
regulate the exchange of resources and goods. Projection and blame are common
devices of journalists who write provocative opinion pieces. This journalistic
version of case-making is the bread and butter of professional writers and is
commonplace in television journalism. Complaining can be an individual response
to group rules and commoners can challenge alpha humans if they have the right
Sexual prudery has always been an important dynamic in human groups and
gossip about sexual liaisons is always the juiciest and sometimes the most
dangerous topic of conversation. A woman can destroy a man’s reputation by
complaining of sexual impropriety with or without cause. Complaints are
developed into cases within the privacy of each mind. Case-making stories accuse
others of character flaws, wrongdoing, and simulate a courtroom drama,
presenting evidence, determining guilt and announcing the penalty. Cases build
over time and often involve self-aggrandizing fantasy and rehearsal of speeches
that can be used to complain to others or to confront the accused.
Females tend to make dramatic cases and act them out in front of friends as
if they were auditioning for a part in a television drama. They test their
stories on each other and reach consensus by sharing emotional outbursts. The
guilt of the accused is determined more by the intensity of the storyteller's
emotions, speech pitch and volume than by the substantial merits of the case.
Males tend to have different strategies in the complaint department. Women
are specialists at sneak attacks, passive aggression and work covertly to build
a case against an enemy. Men, in comparison, tend to be more demonstrative and
their aggression is more easily seen. Men begin to discredit other men and find
allies using derogatory comments and sarcasm. The idea is to discredit and
marginalize anyone you do not like. When men feel secure that other men are
allies, they become more demonstrative and voice more aggressive insults against
a common foe with derisive laughter and backslapping camaraderie. Groups of men
are most dangerous when they achieve loud camaraderie, based on shared enmity,
because they can quickly generate enough aggressive energy to attack a common
enemy. A volatile men's group can create a new enemy in a matter of minutes.
Conflicts can be resolved by timeouts, change of context, negotiation,
mediation and separation. An overwhelming problem is the need for victory. When
a loving couple enters an argument both participants want to prevail and the
conflict escalates as each tries harder and harder to win. A simple solution to
an argument is for one or both sides to concede. Training to reduce and resolve
conflicts involves learning to convert the innate structure of win or lose into
win-win outcomes. As soon as a combatant realizes that winning is losing and
losing is winning, then the substance of a conflict can be shifted. Win-win
solutions to conflicts require creative thinking, concessions and compromises.
These requirements are hard to achieve. The linkage is to learned skills of
self-control, empathy and compassion. One major is obstacle, innate narcissism,
the inability to accept criticism or admit to errors, must be fully revealed,
understood and ultimately overridden.
Hear About Case-making and Conflict
The book, I and Thou, focuses on intimate relationships. Innate tendencies are hard at
work when people meet, become lovers and end with arguments and fighting. The
same tendencies determine how family members interact and explain why so many
families are “dysfunctional.” When lovers form an enduring pair bond, they often
become parents and everything changes. Humans seek bonding with others and are
distressed when they become isolated. Humans bond to each other in several ways.
The most enduring bonds are kin-related, based on closely shared genes. The
deepest bonding occurs when mother and infant are together continuously from
birth and mother breast-feeds the infant. Bonds among family members are the
most enduring. Bonds to friends, lovers and spouses are the next most
significant. Bonds to colleagues, neighbors and even strangers that are admired
from a distance are next. Friendships are often temporary bonds, based on the
need to affiliate with others for protection, social status, feeding, sex and
I and Thou eBook
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The author is
Stephen Gislason MD
The Psychology & Philosophy series was developed by Persona Digital Books.
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reserved. The author is Stephen Gislason and the publisher is Persona Digital Books