In our society, the idea of self-reliance is often viewed positively. And yet, it is our nature to benefit in numerous ways from others. As Albert Einstein beautifully articulated in a book titled, Living Philosophies: A Series of Intimate Credos:
“From the standpoint of daily life…there is one thing we do know: that man is here for the sake of other men–above all for those upon whose smile and well-being our own happiness depends, and also for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day I realize how much my own outer and inner life is built upon the labors of my fellow-men, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received. My peace of mind is often troubled by the depressing sense that I have borrowed too heavily from the work of other men.” (p. 3)
According to the DIG CONFLICT MODEL that we have been utilizing on this blog, From Insults to Respect, a conflict occurs when the following three conditions occur:
- Party A desires an act will occur.
- Party A perceives that another party is likely to act in a manner that interferes with the desire.
- Party A perceives that the other party would be guilty of doing something wrong if he or she carries out the interfering act.
Notice that each of the three conditions has a key word italicized—desire for the first condition, interference for the second, and guilt for the third. If we take the first letter of each of these key words and put them together, they spell DIG; hence the DIG Conflict Model’s name.
Party A, in the above definition, indicates the individual who is theoretically engaged in a conflict and from whose perspective the conflict will first be described.
The word “DIG” provides us a way to remember a technique to quickly and succinctly describe a conflict. First, we describe the “desire,” then the “interference,” and then the “guilt” condition.
In addition to helping us describe a conflict, it can help us to better understand what is going on during a conflict. Very simple conflicts can be looked at as a single unit with little difficulty. However, more complicated conflicts will leave us scratching our heads. The skill to break up the conflict into its three conditions allows us to familiarize ourselves with smaller, more easily understandable parts. Then, when we join the parts together, the whole becomes easier to grasp.
Moreover, sometimes we can come up with an idea to make a change in just one of the easier to understand parts that then leads to the rest of the conflict becoming easier to manage. In earlier posts we looked at examples that illustrated using these ideas, and in one particular post we focussed particularly on ways to change the guilt condition (see here).
Since I wrote that post, I received some feedback indicating that there is some confusion about the nature of blame, guilt, and responsibility. Thus, today I shall undertake an effort to reduce this confusion, and then relate this understanding to respect.
Blame, Guilt, and Responsibility
Why does Lucy, in this comic, go out of her way to get people she knows to absolve her of all blame regardless of what happens? Here’s my take on this.
The word, blame, has a variety of meanings. So, to avoid confusion, on this blog when we are discussing the DIG Conflict Model we’ll be sticking to one particular meaning, e.g., “When a person blames someone, that person has the belief that someone is guilty of doing something wrong and deserves some type of punishment.”
Punishment is typically not a pleasant experience to undergo. In the above comic, perhaps Lucy wants to avoid punishment by absolving herself from blame.
According to the DIG Conflict Model, when someone has a conflict with you, or you have a conflict with yourself, part of what is going on is that the person who has a conflict with you believes that if you carry out the interfering act you would be guilty of being wrong, and therefore you would deserve to be punished. If you can transform that guilt into something other than guilt, it would eliminate one of the essential conditions of a conflict and thus resolve it.
One way to transform guilt, is to take responsibility for what went wrong. When we do so, we have some of the same very strong feelings that go along with guilt, but rather than believing punishment is the proper response, another is offered; we admit that we played at least a part in what went wrong, and then make it clear that we will take steps to improve our actions in the future. The genuine feeling that comes with taking responsibility, leads us to do a search for improvements.
The Benefits of Transforming Guilt into Responsibility
David Coleman is a Senior Research Fellow at the National Security Archive. His most recent book is The Fourteenth Day: JFK and the Aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
From his research, David found that President John F. Kennedy enjoyed very high public approval ratings compared with most modern presidents. Over the whole of his presidency, Kennedy averaged a 70.1 percent approval rating, comfortably the highest of any post-World War II president. By comparison, the average for all presidents between 1938 and 2012 is 54 percent.
On April 17th, 1961, Kennedy ordered what became known as the “Bay of Pigs Invasion”: 1,500 U.S.-trained Cubans, called “Brigade 2506”, landed on the island in an attempt to overthrow the country’s dictator, Fidel Castro. The plan failed within three days.
By April 19, 1961, the Cuban government had captured or killed the invading exiles, and Kennedy was forced to negotiate for the release of the 1,189 survivors. After twenty months, Cuba released the captured exiles in exchange for $53 million worth of food and medicine.
When the invasion had failed, many felt Kennedy was guilty of doing something terribly wrong, and more than a few insults were being hurled at him. However, when he went before the press, he took responsibility for the failure, and pledged to take several specific steps to make sure that what happened would never happen again. Immediately afterwards his approval rating spiked, going up to 83 percent, the highest level of his presidency.
From my own experience, I have learned that using a similar type of response can be very helpful. When I find that someone has a conflict with me because of something that I have done, I have often been able to turn those angry feelings that come along with a conflict into a respectful resolution by making it clear that I recognize my responsibility in what happened and I plan to take some action to improve.
Returning to Einstein, let us ask, what was it about this man who lived many years ago and somehow still captures the respectful imagination of so many of us? Surely, his awe-inspiring achievements in science is a major reason for this. But today, I would like to ask whether it has, as well, something to do with his profound sense of responsibility to his fellow human beings, a sense of responsibility that led him to set aside, for periods of time, his passionate interest in his research so that he might speak out against injustice, and to put forth his vision for a more peaceful world.
Some people will enjoy reading this blog by beginning with the first post and then moving forward to the next more recent one; then to the next one; and so on. This permits readers to catch up on some ideas that were presented earlier and to move through all of the ideas in a systematic fashion to develop their emotional intelligence. To begin at the very first post you can click HERE.