(Vinod Anand)
Are YOU always ready to lash out at an opposing view or hold another person responsible for your problems? The solution to calming your mind lies in taking your enemies out to lunch, at least once in a lifetime

History has taught us that wherever there are living beings, there will be conflicts. While in the animal kingdom reasons for a fight maybe limited to control over territory and food, the human species is far more complex. If recent cases are taken into consideration, we’ll realize that the frequency of conflicts in our daily lives has risen manifold—be it between a husband and a wife, a mother and a child, siblings, friends, professionals, a stranger on the road, or even conflict within our own minds. Healer and author Elizabeth Lesser, who’s written the best-seller Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow, talks to us about the reasons of conflict and tells us how the resolution of any conflict lies in our own hands rather than our adversary’s. Here are the tips:

Is it possible to live a conflict-free life?

No. There is no such thing as a conflict- free life. The nature of life is for things to rub against each other, to create friction, sometimes to fail apart. We all expect & conflict-free life, but no one is spared. We all get lost, we all make mistakes, we all get ill, and eventually we all die, If you can accept this, you can relax in this life with all of its messiness. If you can have a sense of humour about it and a sense of wonder about the whole mystery of life, then dealing with conflicts can become a blessed challenge. You can use your energy to flow with life, as opposed to swimming hard against the current. You can even lie back and enjoy the ride.

You talk of ‘otherising’, in your book. What does it mean?

‘Otherising’ is the dangerous act of turning someone into the enemy just because he or she looks different, prays different, speaks different, or thinks different. We all engage in ‘otherising’ to some degree. But there are some among us who are so damaged that they become dangerous. It’s a behaviour pattern that has dogged mankind since the beginning of time. Here, in America, our political process is in a downward cycle of ‘otherising’. During the last election, I realized I was guilty of ‘otherising’ too. I found myself participating in ‘otherising’ rants on a daily basis, calling whole groups of people evil wrongdoers, even though I didn’t know them.

How can we stop ‘otherising’?

After the election experience, I initiated the “take the OTHER to lunch” initiative. It’s a completely non-organized movement with an unknown number of members. In the lunches I have had with people from different backgrounds and religions and political parties I have grown in compassion, self- ‘awareness, and patience. My lunch mates and I have not tried to change each other, nor have we pretended that our differences would magically melt over lunch. Instead, we have gained a little more understanding of each other; we have entered each other’s worlds; we have liked each other.

What can we do when we don’t like another person, and feel like lashing out?

The best way is to search within for your own demons. Often, we blame others for things that we too are capable of being or doing. See if you can find tendencies in yourself that are similar to the people who judge most harshly. At the end of the day, most people are mirror images of ourselves — people in need of love; people in need of being appreciated; people who, given a chance, will reveal their hearts to you. Even if you disagree with someone fundamentally, there’s no reason not to be civil towards him.

What is the one thing that helps us out in times of conflict?
Love. Knowing that no matter what happens, there is always love around us. Try to create a life of love. How? By giving love. By being in love. When it comes to love, the more you give, more you get.

Conflict results in a personal crisis. People often break down. How can we keep our hearts and minds open?

There is a Book “Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow” which mentions many solutions to face the aftermath of divorce when everything in life comes crashing down. There appears so much fear about future, for children and finances. At that time one is faced with a choice: either fall apart and become a bitter or use the disastrous time to re-evaluate who was I, what I wanted out of life, and where my life’s journey was taking me. Everything one is faced with that choice at some point, when he doesn’t get what he wants, when he gets sick, when a loved one dies, when he loses his job, etc. You can drown yourself in self- pity asking “why me”? You can blame other people and God; you can try to numb the pain with alcohol, drugs and work. Or, you can turn and face the fire. You can ask what the loss can teach you. You can look honestly at yourself and enter into a process of change and growth.

Are we all equipped for conflict or crisis of management?

In these times of uncertainty, fear and change, we look for ways to control what seems out of control. It is a natural response to fear and uncertainty. But I suggest a different solution to our anxieties —and that is to relax into the uncertainty. The more we try to control the uncontrollable, the more fearful and tightly wound we become. The same goes for crises in our lives. If we tighten in fear, we hinder new life from being born. It’s not easy to relax into pain and to trust change and chaos. It’s natural to become frightened, to doubt yourself, to lash out, to give up. But you can learn in the midst of it all to stay open and faithful and ask yourself, “What new life wants to be born”
• How do you end an argument?
a) You change the subject to be on friendly terms
b) You walk out, but make up later
c) Always reach a compromise
• What do you think is the purpose of an argument?
a) Nothing. It’s a waste of time
b) To put your point of view across to other people
c) To discuss differences
• If your partner says, ‘let’s agree to disagree’, what would your reaction be?
a) You would accept the peace offering
b) Stop arguing
c) Agree not to disagree and avoid conflict
• When you are arguing, is your partner more likely to:
a) Retreat into stony silence
b) Raise his or her voice
c) Continue until he or she feels you have seen their point of view
• How do you react when fighting?
a) Feel uncomfortable
b) Recall unrelated grievances
c) Try to convince the other person

Mostly As: Your conflict style is avoidance. Shirking any form of conflict may be a sign of low self-esteem
Most Bs: Your conflict style is volatile. This could be lethal for any relationship
Mostly Cs: Your conflict style is self-absorbed. You feel you know best. This could lead to narrow points of view

Author's Bio: 


Born in 1939, and holding Master’s Degree both in Mathematics (1959) and Economics (1961), and Doctorate Degree in Economics (1970), Dr. Vinod K.Anand has about forty five years of teaching, research, and project work experience in Economic Theory (both micro and macro), Quantitative Economics, Public Economics, New Political Economy, and Development Economics with a special focus on economic and social provisions revolving around poverty, inequality, and unemployment issues, and also on informal sector studies. His last assignment was at the National University of Lesotho (Southern Africa) from 2006 to 2008. Prior to that he was placed as Professor and Head of the Department of Economics at the University of North-West in the Republic of South Africa, and University of Allahabad in India, Professor at the National University of Lesotho, Associate Professor at the University of Botswana, Gaborone in Botswana, and at Gezira University in Wad Medani, Sudan, Head, Department of Arts and Social Sciences, Yola in Nigeria, Principal Lecturer in Economics at Maiduguri University in Nigeria, and as Lecturer at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in Nigeria. Professor Anand has by now published more than 80 research papers in standard academic journals, authored 11 books, supervised a number of doctoral theses, was examiner for more than twenty Ph.D. theses, and has wide consultancy experience both in India and abroad, essentially in the African continent. This includes holding the position of Primary Researcher, Principal Consultant etc. in a number of Research Projects sponsored and funded by Universities, Governments, and International Bodies like, USAID, IDRC, and AERC. His publications include a variety of themes revolving around Economic Theory, New Political Economy, Quantitative Economics, Development Economics, and Informal Sector Studies. His consultancy assignments in India, Nigeria, Sudan, Botswana, and the Republic of South Africa include Non-Directory Enterprises in Allahabad, India, Small Scale Enterprises in the Northern States of Nigeria, The Absolute Poverty Line in Sudan, The Small Scale Enterprises in Wad Medani, Sudan, Micro and Small Scale Enterprises in Botswana, The Place of Non-Formal Micro-Enterprises in Botswana, Resettlement of a Squatter Community in the Vryburg District of North West Province in the Republic of South Africa, Trade and Investment Development Programme for Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises: Support for NTSIKA in the Republic of South Africa, and Development of the Manufacturing Sector in the Republic of South Africa’s North West Province: An Approach Based on Firm Level Surveys. Professor Anand has also extensively participated in a number of conferences, offered many seminars, participated in a number of workshops, and delivered a variety of Refresher Lectures at different venues both in India and abroad. Dr. Anand was placed at the prestigious Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS), Shimla in the State Himachal Pradesh, India as a Fellow from 2001 to 2003, and had completed a theoretical and qualitative research project/monograph on the Employment Profile of Micro Enterprises in the State of Himachal Pradseh, India.