When my father died last year, at his funeral, his brother in law Kenvyn told me this story. He was out drinking with my father one Saturday with two of his own brothers, perhaps 45 years ago. My father started arguing from a particular political stand point on a particular issue. The three brothers immediately attacked him and for a couple of hours they debated back and for with my father usually starting his riposte with the word Rubbish! Eventually, the bar they were in closed and they all went their separate ways. Kenvyn kept thinking about the argument for the rest of the week. And decided that actually my Dad was right in his stand.

A week later the four of them were back together and Kenvyn started the evening off by telling my Dad he now agreed with him. My Dad smiled and said Rubbish! And began a very convincing attack on the very arguments he had previously used.

I told this story to my friends in Philadelphia Rebecca and Paul. They took up the word rubbish in playful arguments. Let’s go to the park: rubbish! Some months later their five year old elder son Henry was saying something to his three year old younger brother Ezra and Ezra simply said Rubbish! So the approach lives on.

But my point here is that it is often interesting to try out both sides of a conflict, probably with people other than those involved, and argue to see where the strengths and weaknesses of the case are. And of course, you don’t have to use the word Rubbish, but if you do, think of my late Dad.

About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
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