Conflict resolution dream by Richard Bleil
Last night, my dream was, well, let’s say interesting. There was a meeting in my basement (actually, it was my friend Anna’s basement, but don’t tell her because she doesn’t know I borrowed it for my dream) with, oh, maybe a dozen people. Among them was actor Verne Troyer (probably because I had seen a movie with him yesterday). If you don’t know who he is, I’m guessing that his most famous role is as “Mini Me”. He is a “little person”, a fact that is often exploited in many of his roles in the name of comedy. In the dream, one man made an insensitive joke at Verne’s stature, and Verne of course snapped back. A third man that I’ll refer to as “the enforcer” came to Verne’s aid and, being larger than the joker, tried to settle the situation with physical threats. A fourth, “the smoother” tried to talk everybody down but to no avail. This is when, as the leader of the group, I snapped.
In my dream, I used a conflict resolution technique that I don’t recall, now that I’m awake, ever actually using or learning on my own. This is the point of today’s blog. If any of my readers know if this technique has a name or is taught somewhere please feel free to share.
First, for this to work in practice, it would be necessary for the leader to have the strength and charisma to be able to have the involved individuals actually follow. I pulled all four out of the group meeting and dragged them into the kitchen where I insisted that they make me eggs and bacon. Yup, I apparently wanted a breakfast snack (probably because I am actually hungry), but the point wasn’t what they were doing. It was a menial job where they were all forced to share the same small space. I started off giving each of them a task (one got ingredients, one fried the eggs, one made the microwave bacon, one got the pots). I directed each to their task, pointing out where to get the things they need.
As they worked, diligently following directions, their attention was diverted to the individual task at hand. As we worked, I started with Verne. I asked him what the most difficult thing was about living with his stature. Because of the confined space, the joker heard what Verne explained. The goal was to get the joker to begin to sympathize with Verne.
Once Verne explained the difficulty of being “little person”, I next turned to the joker. I pointed out that poking fun of somebody’s stature is likely the lowest form of “humor”, and really isn’t funny at all. After all, he had no choice in the matter, and cheap shots at an easy target are really just veiled forms of bullying. I asked him why he felt the need to make the joke, and what in him did he hope to gain. Was he feeling the need to be noticed? Or was it about some insecurity in himself? I had him talk about how he was feeling and when he made the joke and what he was hoping to get out of it.
Next, I spoke to the enforcer. I suggested that physical threats rarely, if ever, actually helps to resolve conflicts. I asked why he felt he needed to go to threats at all. We talked about him feeling the need to be the hero and “police” the situation rather than to let them work the situation out for themselves. We discussed how “talking down” the situation compares with increasing tension.
Finally, I asked the “smoother” to discuss why she felt the need to get involved, and what in her made her want to get involved. Was she a middle child, or did she often get involved in conflicts between her parents? Her approach was better than that of the enforcer but was not effective either.
In the end, they completed a plate of bacon and eggs for me. The specific task of bacon and eggs wasn’t the important part, but rather, that they accomplished some small goal by working together, and talked with each other to further the cause of understanding through it.
Now, my question for the reader is if you’ve heard of this technique before? Is it something that might work?
Again, this was all based on a dream, and the keys to making it work, even in the dream, were “just right” for acting on it. Fortunately, I could get them quiet long enough to drag them to the kitchen, and had the leadership for them to actually follow me (in the dream, the enforcer was the one that resisted the most), but I thought that it was an interesting approach to problem solving. And because it was in a dream makes me think that I need therapy.