In a busy and hectic environment it’s easy to launch straight into the issue or the problem to be addressed. When we do this we treat a person as an object – a much easier place to either ignore or justify poor behaviour and ways of operating.
The story of Annie a woman who was staging a lone anti-Islam protest outside the Noor Islamic Cultural Centre in Columbus, Ohio and the hug that turned a protest into a meeting of learning and understanding hit the headlines yesterday.
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Cynthia DeBoutinkhar a member of the Cultural Centre approached Annie and asked her if she could give her a hug which she accepted – reluctantly at first. Post-hug an invitation to come inside the cultural centre was accepted by Annie.
As a result Annie was moving towards seeing Cynthia as a person setting the stage for a shift from an entrenched belief and behaviour set that would be hard to revert back to.
It took immense courage for both of these women for this exchange to have been possible.
The point of connection came when Annie was able to begin to see ‘Cynthia’ as a human being. Cynthia showed incredible compassion and curiosity towards Annie, connecting with her from a place of a person who had fears and concerns and not as an object – one that represented everything that Annie feared.
Without one person having the maturity, compassion and courage to approach the human being and not the problem this exchange could have spiralled into one of anger and violence.
Annie responded to this simple act of human kindness with an equal amount, if not more courage. When we defend a position staunchly it takes incredible humility and strength to move away from this, to allow ourselves to see a different viewpoint and face that fear and prejudice has dominated our perspective and resulting behaviours.
As the shift from object to person evolved, Annie learnt more about Cynthia, her beliefs, her concerns and what she was passionate about .It turns out that they shared some of the same concerns and were more aligned than Annie would ever have imagined as she got dressed that morning and prepared her protest sign.
Is there someone in your team that you have conflict with?
Reflect on how you approach this is fear and prejudice directing your views and behaviours?
How can you take inspiration from Annie and Cynthia today?
Pollyanna Lenkic is an author, coach, and speaker who works with leading organisations. Her structured approach delivers an uplift of 25% in team performance. To work with Pollyanna go to her website.