This past week at a Harvard Business School event, I told the nice man next to me that I study, "Conflict Analysis and Resolution."
He asked, "What's the secret to solving conflicts?"
"Let it go", I said.
"What do you mean?" He responded.
I explained, that if you can drop the whole thing, do so. Most conflicts aren't worth the fight. They are very seductive and can become addictive. The stories we develop around the conflict and our position as victim can bring all kinds of attention, but ultimately keep us stuck.
For example, you could spend today thinking about how right you are about that person or that moment in time. Or, you could get out a piece a paper and start writing down what really matters to you and how you plan to accomplish it.
Below are the three questions he sent me the next day and the answers I sent him.
Question 1: How to Let it go?
1) Recognize that you are complaining
2) Decide to a) stop b) refocus on articulating clearly in your mind what you DO want. c) then focus exclusively on what you DO want
Question 2: Why are people not able to Let it go?
People hold on to problems for various reasons. It's often a mix of the following
1) Significance- it makes them feel important to have this problem.
2) The benefit of seeing oneself as a victim is that you don't have to be part of articulating the solution
3) Master narratives- If you are surrounded by people telling the same story of victimization (or complaint) you don't recognize it as a story. You assume that it is TRUE. It feels normal to talk about it.. (i.e. people complaining about snow...which actually is quite beautiful)
4) People like to connect on problems. It's how they form group identity. A friend was telling me about a "divorced women's group" where the women sit around and complain about their lot in life. Sounds terrible. People confuse pity parties with closeness.
In larger more global conflicts, people derive all kinds of identity and meaning out of associating with various groups that are against this or against that.
They print up t-shirts, make facebook pages, and organize workshops. Not all of this is waste...movements helped us upend segregation and extend voting rights to women.
But those are the BIG ones. I suggest considering how much of your daily stewing is about large global injustices and how much is relatively petty (i.e. how cold it is in the winter)
10% on global justice and 90% on the comparatively petty?
Question 3: How to help others Let It Go?
Honestly, the best is to focus on the self for awhile and THEN, eventually, you start helping people imagine different possibilities for themselves.
The best you can do is not to fuel the drama that others bring to you. Acknowledge to yourself that they are trapped in a story. Eventually help them write new story lines for themselves. If that sounds too tricky, then just help them feel better. When people feel better they tend to drop the drama.
But first, just focus on yourself. Otherwise you're just focused on what is wrong with them...and you have to go back to step 1.
Overall, I'd have to say this time Disney got it right...Let it Go... 'cause the cold never bothered me anyway...