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Conflicting narratives Conflicting narratives
by Joseph Gatt
2020-05-09 09:57:39
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People want praise, not sycophancy.

I spent quite a lot of time studying the psychological aspects of wars and conflicts. Be they family conflicts, or conflicts at a larger scale, say conflicts between two nations or two territories.

Let's say each conflict has three dimensions: a conflict of emotional narratives, a conflict of factual narratives, and a conflict of “narrative” narratives, that is how stories are told.

Here's how conflict works (in my humble option). Here are the steps.

narat01_400Step one: person A has a public narrative about person B. The narrative elicits anger and repulsion of person A from the people who heard the narrative.

Example: Jack tells a passionate story about his wife Jessica to his entourage, tells them about how's she's careless, lacks responsibility, breaks everything she touches, and on and on and on.

Step two: person B has to fight his way around the negative emotions elicited by the negative narrative and fights an uphill battle to calm the anger and resentment.

Example: Jessica goes around telling the people who heard the narrative that she's not such a bad person, and that Jack is saying to cover up for the fact that he had a one-night-stand with a stripper.

Step three: Conflict escalates. Conflicting emotions (love vs. hate) along with conflicting facts (Jack tells set of facts, Jessica another set of facts) and conflicting narratives (Jack has one story, Jessica a completely different story).

Step four: Emotional, factual and narrative narratives become irreconcilable. Jessica is set in her own facts and stories, so is Jack. Negative emotions are irreversible.

So how do you prevent conflict?

-A lot of people think that overt praise prevents conflict. That is if you tell your wife you love her 10 times a day that should do the trick. Or if you constantly praise a nation's leader that should do the trick.

-But people tend to get “sycophancy” and “praise” mixed up. “Sycophancy” is praising someone overtly, just to be allowed to behave freely around them and perhaps even better manipulate them. Praise is actually being comfortable around the person, and tends to be done in more covert ways.

-What a lot of people (and nations) don't realize is that the way they behave on a daily basis says a lot about how they feel about other people, which is what actually leads to conflict.

-That is you could have a partner, be it in politics, in business or in life, who appears to say all the right things about you and likes you, but their day-to-day behavior completely contradicts their apparent fondness or willingness to cooperate.

-Example: South Korea claimed that they had warm feelings for the North Korean people, as they are one race. But if you picked up any South Korean newspaper, be it Cho-Dong-Joong (the three major right-wing newspapers) or the Hankyoreh (left-wing) you'd get narratives like “we need unification because we need cheap labor and cheap land.”

-Now that says a lot about how the South Koreans feel about their northern “brothers”: cattle, not human beings!

-If I were to fix that narrative, I would focus on praising North Korean artists for example, or North Korean sportsmen and Olympic medal winners, or the North Korean soccer team or something. There are other subtle, sub-conscious messages in the Korean press that betray ill feelings towards North Koreans rather than warm feelings.

-Let's take a couple that shares a house. You can shower your husband or wife with gifts or praise but that's not going to win you anything.

-It's your general attitude inside and outside the house that will say a lot about how you feel about your partner. Are you calling him/her to tell them that you're meeting with friends? Are you messaging him/her to say you're stuck in traffic and will come home a little late? Do you write/call everyday when you are out of town? Did you notice that we are running out of frying oil and sugar and eggs and signal that to your partner? Are you sad when your partner is about to leave for a one-week vacation at her parents' house, or are you happy? All these things betray something about your feelings!

-More importantly, do you feel like you have to “over-sell” your couple by telling all kinds of stories? Or do you let your chemistry speak for itself at friendly meetings?

-Now two nations work the exact same way. Israel constantly helps Palestinians in the West Bank by signaling small details on a daily basis that save thousands of lives. Maybe the North and South Koreans should do that with each other.

-Finally, one of the things I find most frustrating, is working with an individual's narrative. A lot of individuals, and nations, tend to have narratives that match their aspirations rather than who they actually are. That is, rather than saying who they actually are and who they aspire to be, they get those two mixed up.

-Often times, those individuals “claim to be” who they aspire to be because very often they either don't make an effort to become who they aspire to be, or who they aspire to be is simply impossible.

-What I tend to do with those guys is I tend to do away with the life narrative and focus on business. These guys, be they leaders or “friends” are incredibly complicated to deal with. On the one hand, they completely reinvent their own, and everyone else's narrative. That can become dangerous, because anything I tell them can have consequences. So I avoid meeting them, but then they take my aversion to meeting them personally.

So much more I could say, but I'll leave it at that.

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