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Communication and Conflict Newsletter, Issue #005, Would you rather be right or happy?
June 10, 2008

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Newsletter - Right or Happy?

Would you rather be right or happy?

(or why responding to a personal conflict as if it is a competition can be a challenge but it won't bring us happiness)

The perfect way is without difficulty
Save that it avoids picking and choosing.
Only when you stop liking and disliking
Will all be clearly understood.
A split hair’s difference,
And Heaven and Earth are set apart!
If you want to get the plain truth,
Be not concerned with right and wrong.
The conflict between right and wrong
Is the sickness of the mind.

From Hsin-hsin Ming by Seng-ts’an quoted in
The Way of Zen by Alan Watts.

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To this day I can still remember over 25 years ago first pulling down 'The Way of Zen' by Alan Watts in a W.H.Smith bookshop in Godalming, Surrey, UK where I went to Sixth Form College, before catching my bus home. One of the first things that struck me was in the opening lines of Chapter One 'The Philosophy of The Tao':

Zen Buddhism ..... is not religion or philosophy; it is not a psychology or a type of science. It is an example of what is known in India and China as a 'way of liberation'.

That appealed to me immensely. At the age of 18 I couldn't understand what the point was of so much dogma in all of the fields he listed. All it led to was competition between them. And I still don't understand it though of course I recognise it in myself at times and in other situations that I am involved in through my work.

We're right!

No, We're right!

No, you're both wrong, we're right!

Why couldn't they see that in their own way, from a particular perspective they were all right? But unfortunately they were wrong in their assertion of being the only ones who were right.

In so many disputes we see clearly why both parties would consider themselves 'right', and we can understand their perspective when we are not caught up in it.

But for each to understand and accept that the other is also right - in terms of how they see it - is a major obstacle when their focus and determination is on winning.

Alan is now Director of CAOS Conflict Management - click this banner to see the Official Blog..... Sign up for CAOTICA the CAOS Conflict Management Blog

And we see, from disputes about the position of a garden fence, to disputes about an international boundary the destructiveness of pursuing that goal.

The conflict between right and wrong is the sickness of the mind

I guess this is one of the reasons I love Byron Katie's approach to any difficulty through what she calls 'The Work'. She asks that we question the impact of having a thought or belief that we are sure is 'right'. She doesn't tell us it is 'wrong' and that we should believe otherwise. She just asks us to look at the consequences for us of holding on to that belief, and then to consider what our life would be like if we didn't.

These are the 4 questions that make up The Work:

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1. Is it true?

2. Can you absolutely know that it's true?

3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?

4. Who would you be without the thought?

Then turn it around (the concept you are questioning), and don't forget to find three genuine examples of each turnaround.

The Work helps us to make a choice about whether we would rather be right than be happy, but it does it through helping us to come to an understanding of the consequences for ourselves of believing we are right.

Our dispute with another does not have to come into it. We don't have to make the other wrong, and insist that they 'change', in order for us to be happy.

As Katie often says: 'Cut out the middle man, be happy'.

Ideas and Information

Training courses

Check out the Training page for a link to some training courses I intend to run in the summer: Courses now completed, link now goes to general training page

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Workshop 1:
Conflict in your relationships…?

(1 day)

Workshop 2:
Effective Communication Skills
(1 day)

Course: Supporting others in Resolving Conflict: Managing conflict in our own environment. (3 days - requires attendance at one of Workshop 1 or 2)

Recommended books this month: Ok as I started with a Zen theme and moved on to Byron Katie, these themes are reflected in my recommended books this month:
The Zen of Groups: A Handbook for People Meeting with a Purpose is a fascinating book for anyone who works with or facilitates groups. It has some great ideas and insights into the kinds of situations that arise and is great for helping you to just reflect on what happens in your group.

The Zen of Listening: Mindful Communication in the Age of Distraction- Wow, what a great book! You might think how can you write a whole book just about listening, but Rebecca Shafir really treats the topic with the reverence and detail it deserves and highlights the precious joy of simply giving, or receiving, the focused, genuine attention that listening can provide when done 'mindfully'.

Loving What Is: How Four Questions Can Change Your Life Oh have I recommended this before? I'm sorry.... :-) But you know for me it is 'the business'. It cuts through everything that we struggle against with insight and compassion.

For more books that relate to communication and conflict go to the Books page on the website.

Principle Focus

Sorry the links in this section no longer exist as the Weekly Thoughts now form part of an ebook that you can purchase through the Communication and Conflict website

This month the Principle is number 1: That we treat each other with respect.
Sometimes we might not like someone else or even be in dispute with them. But treating them with respect serves to prevent the escalation of any difficulties we have with them. This page identifies why it is also better for us to do this - when it is often expected that we should do anything but treat others with respect when we have fallen out with them.

The link takes you to the first page of the 9 Free Weekly Thoughts on the Principles of Effective Communication.

Quotation Corner:
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The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy.

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly

From Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach

Connect with Alan on LinkedIn

or his Twitter page @alan_sharland

Besides being the author of the Communication and Conflict website Alan is Director of CAOS Conflict Management Tel. +44 20 3371 7507

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Some links that you may find interesting...... is an excellent resource of information relating to mediation. There are articles, links to websites and blogs as well as the possibility of locating mediators in your area. - is a comprehensive guide to information about Self Improvement, Personal Growth and Self Help on the Internet. It is designed to be an organized directory, with articles and references to thousands of other Web Sites on the World Wide Web. helps people, like yourself, create change in their life and business. They share fun stress management strategies and personal development articles.

Learning Supersite is a fascinating site dedicated to the development of informal learning. "A new approach to learning, the Learning Supersite is a venue that provides personal learning community, but with state-of-the-art Web technologies."

Transforming Conflict is an excellent organisation which works with young people, and adults, in educational settings, promoting restorative approaches to conflict.

Would you like to build your own website?..... SBI! Quick Tour

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