Al Turtle 2010
Some years ago I gave a 3–hour presentation at a conference on Domestic Violence. The title was “Remediating Bullies and Their Makers: A different look at Domestic Violence.” In this presentation I shared the new views of the problem of relational battering that I have come to learn over the past 15 years.
I gave three Powerpoint presentations. In this article I make available the first of these – on Peace Making. This first presentation is really about the difference between Dialogical and Non-Dialogical relating and the choices we all face. Click here, or on the link at the end of my opening comments, to download the file.
Before you watch the presentation, I’d like to share some comments that will create a framework for my thoughts.
In our office, here in Northern Idaho, I had worked with over 2400 couples. It is reported elsewhere that marriage counselors are often not very well trained in dealing with Domestic Violence, and that many don’t even recognize DV. I do not know about others, but I believe that 100% of the couples I saw were what I call pre-Domestic Violent. That means to me, that they displayed the behaviors of people who potentially could easily shift into using violence in their relationship. Also, of those I saw, somewhere around 40% admitted in the first session to participating in or witnessing incidents of Domestic Violence in their past. I took these potentials and this issue very very seriously.
The core of the issue for me is focused on how people deal with disagreement. I retold my experience with the elder couple to my audience at the conference. This story is mentioned elsewhere on this site, but I will tell it more fully here.
In about 1992 I was very interested in what I call Vintage Lovers – people who have been married a long time and who are now successfully back in Romantic Love. I met such a couple in West Yellowstone, Montana, in the fall, after the school season had begun. I’ve found this is a good time and place to find these people.
They were in one of those stores that was half grocery and half restaurant. I was standing next to the woman, when her partner came around a corner in the grocery section. She lit up like a bright light, in delight, when she saw her partner. They had probably been separated for only minutes, but still had this beautiful reaction at rejoining. I asked them how long they had been married. When they gave the answer of over 50 years, I guessed I had a Vintage Lover couple, and offered to take them to lunch in return for being interviewed.
I asked many questions as they ate their lunch of Broasted Chicken. One question caused quite a stir. I asked, “How do you deal with disagreement?”
The man started a deep chuckle that went on and on. He was very amused. The woman, looking ever so serious, said, “Mr. Turtle. We believe it is impossible for two people to agree on anything!”
This statement so startled me that I immediately wrote it down. I saw it as one of those “crazy” sentences where the first part of the sentence doesn’t agree with the second part. What I heard her saying was “We agree that it is impossible for two people to agree on anything.”
What I did not know, at the time, was that she was giving me the “correct” version of the equally cock-eyed statement, “Agree to disagree.” That sentence, I have learned really means, “We agree to create and maintain a relationships in which no one is expected to, or forced to, agree.” The first part of the sentence is the commitment to a kind of relationship, while the second part is about an attribute of that relationship.
The man stopped his chuckle, looked serious, and said, “Yup, yup. If two people are agreeing, you know one thing for sure. At least one of them is lying.” Now this statement gave me the reason why this couple valued “disagreement.” By encouraging each other to share disagreement (agreeably) they manged to better share their truthes with each other and thus build reliable stability.
Some 28 years before, I had gone to war in Vietnam. I was apprehensive about being captured. Before I went I read a book on the brainwashing done by the North Koreans in the Korean war. The book often spoke of “what it was that people fought for, what they believed about themselves and their country.” I took that experience very seriously. How could I not? Lots of people, friends, were hurt or killed. In quiet times I would chat with my buddies about, “Why are we fighting? For what?” One clear answer was that we were fighting for the great U S A, which was very different from other countries we knew because we had freedoms, especially our “freedom of speech.” Eventually it became a saying, “We fight for Freedom of Speech.”
Then I came home to my country, and not only witnessed people yelling and burning and raging against soldiers and sailors who were protecting them, but also to people who were raging against those who were raging. I realized I had been fighting so that people could express their hatred of me in the military, and I was fighting so others could try to punish these people for speaking up. I fought so that people could argue about controlling what people said. I later realized I had fought for a country I am proud, where “people do not have to even pretend to agree.”
I connected my experience with Vietnam with that elder couple from Yellowstone. I had fought for the same value they were expressing.
The Powerpoint on Peace
Back to the presentation. I shared the theme of my presentation using a word familiar to those who read my website, but not necessarily to this audience. “If you are not dialogical at home, and are not guiding, teaching, and promoting dialogue at work, then you are probably part of the problem.”
The new word is Dialogical.
(If you have trouble playing the presentation, let me know. mailto: email@example.com)
(If you would like the master copy (PPT) so as to make your own changes in a presentation you would like to make, also email me using the above link.)