Watching a short speech by William Ury on conflict management is something I will never regret. He didn’t talk about new or extraordinary ideas but just reminded us of the truth.
He begins with a story of three brothers who had a hard time sharing among themselves seventeen camels and a wise woman who gave them her camel. Her kind intention was to let them have eighteen camels instead of seventeen, to make it easier for them to share. But that didn’t work. They still fought each other. We can easily see our human nature in this story if we take a closer look at it. Often, we don’t look for solutions to conflicts but for a reason to fight one another. So, the ‘wise woman’s’ camel is of no help to us.
William also reveals something already known to all of us – we are all one big family who needs to deal with its differences. So, if you look at any conflict from this point of view, the picture gets clearer.
“The secret to peace is us,” says the speaker. I think there should be no doubt about this simple statement. Who else can solve a dispute if not we: those, who surround the conflict, involved in it, or are the conflict itself?
Later, William Ury tells another story about the San Bushmen (a tribe in South Africa). He discribes how whenever there is a dispute among them one of the members goes to hide all the weapons. After this, they all sit together to talk until they come up with a resolution. He calls this system ‘the third side.’ What I liked so much about this is that the «third side» is not a stranger, it is not something separate, but again, it is us. We are the first and the second side, and we are the third one – the surrounding community. And so, this is the essential principle of conflict management “Let’s stop fighting and start talking.” Simple but brilliant, I would conclude.
Next, the speaker even touched the Middle East problem, not providing a solution but a first step, at least. He went back to the story of Abraham. I found this to be ingenious. Both Christians and Muslims like this historical figure, so even these two group who differ in many ways can find common ground. “Going for a walk in the footsteps of Abraham” – this is what William thinks we all should do. He encourages people to look at what was done by, in his own words, ‘the father of us all,’ whose message was the interconnectedness of us all. The example of Abraham couldn’t be better. He demonstrated to the world what it means to respect strangers and show kindness towards them. So, by this, William Ury tries to get across an idea of hospitality, instead of hostility.
Our shared history is what makes us a part of it all. What I have learned from this speech is that changing the way we look at the world can be very useful.
Watching this short speech by William Ury on conflict management is something that I will never regret. He didn’t talk about new or extraordinary ideas but just reminded us of the truth – we are all a big family and not separate sides, so there is only one solution to resolve conflicts – us.
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