With over 50 men and women attending, Jessica Homer, Assistant Director of the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance at FGCU and certified Ethics and Compliance Professional shared her expertise by conducting a workshop in Conflict Resolution with the Democratic Women’s Club of Marco Island (DWCM). Ms. Homer explained that these days, with the political divide in our country, dealing with conflict resolution in personal spaces has become increasingly important.
The purpose of the workshop was to promote meaningful dialogue about engendering conflict resolution with family and friends. After the 2016 election, Reuters reported that one in six Americans totally disowned a family member or friend over political differences! Ms. Homer stated that we must do better to facilitate healthy political discussions.
Ms. Homer first gave the group a general talk about Conflict Resolution. All of us are unique in different ways, age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic heritage, disability, race, life experiences, geographic location, work/thinking style, amount of education, family status, socio-economic status, organizational role and level, communication style, military experience, religion, work experience, first language, and all life experiences. She said that we need to think about these differences and how they influence our decisions and attitudes.
And, we need to be aware of how we view conflict. There are four dominant personality traits. And, some people exhibit more than one of these. If we understand the different traits, we have a better chance to understand one another.
Dominance: This person likes challenges, freedom, immediate results and rewards, bluntness, and brevity.
Inducement: This person enjoys recognition and meeting people as well as things that are new, different, or unusual.
Compliance: This person avoids risks, likes thorough research and quality work, and embraces cooperation.
Steadiness: This person likes stability, predictability, titles, the feeling of belonging, and repeated affirmation.
Looking at life from different perspectives, it is no wonder that we have conflicts. Knowing about personality types will help us get rid of some of our biases. Bias is a strict belief or assumption made about a person or a group of people based on one’s beliefs about the group to which the person belongs. They can be positive or negative. Some of our biases influence our behavior without any conscious knowledge. It affects the way we treat others.
If we can recognize our biases, it is the starting point to being a more diverse and accepting community. For example, accents play a huge part in how we react to people. The expression, “Never judge a book by its cover” can be restated, “Never judge a person by the first impression.” One needs to be empathetic towards a person with differing backgrounds, languages, appearance, and views (political or otherwise) so we can actually listen.
Why should we recognize our biases? Biases stop us from valuing people. If you recognize it, you eliminate it. Identifying and eliminating our biases will allow us the opportunity to create meaningful relationships with people that we may have otherwise overlooked because of our political differences.
The bottom line is that we should treat people as individuals and not a member of an opposing political party and approach individuals with an open mind. It also is very important to do some research, so we can be educated about different topics without taking a party-line policy. We must not parrot back what we hear on the news.
Again, checking the facts is important, and, with the internet, there are many places we can do so.
Keeping all that in mind, Ms. Homer then divided participants into focus groups with the admonition to keep the following guide to meaningful conversation in mind:
- You can only control the way YOU interact with others, not the other way around.
- Treat people as individuals and not as members of a group.
- Approach individuals with an open mind.
- Educate yourselves about different topics fully and completely, without relegating yourself to party line politics.
- Sometimes people do not want to listen. You can change the topic. And, you can choose to remain in, or walk away from the conversation, whenever you want.
Ms. Homer gave each group a “hot” topic to discuss. The participants in each group sat around a table. One side took the Republican viewpoint. The other, the Democrat viewpoint. The topics given were gun control; transgenderism; immigration; climate change; reproductive rights, all political hot-button issues. Ms. Homer assigned a facilitator to each group. The team of Faculty, Staff and Students each had a list of questions and facts to spark the discussion. Everyone became engaged.
The results were interesting. Some found it very difficult to remain in character of the opposing party. Others unintentionally flipped sides. Still others had a difficult time sticking to the assigned topic. But, all had a sense that being armed with facts, letting go our biases, and actually listening to someone could make a difference. All found the break-out sessions helpful and certainly an eye-opener in how to deal with our friends and relatives with opposite political views.
The next meeting will be April 9th at 5 PM at Mackle Park Community Center, 1361 Andalusia Terraace. Renee Wilson, of Rookery Bay will give a talk about the environment. For more information, visit our website, www.DWCMarco.org or contact us at, DWCMarco@gmail.com.