Welcome to the inaugural posting to the blog page on the Higher Ground Community Mediation website! I’m Dave Troxel, founder and mediator at HGCM, and I’ll admit right now that I’m not a blogger and I’m sometimes kind of dumb about the internet and web site design, so seeing this published here on the site is a big deal for me! If I keep it up though, I might just get the hang of it, so follow me or check back in every now and then to watch and engage as these pages come to life and multiply.
I have another confession to make: I believe in conflict. Not just because I make my living as a mediator, but because of the lessons I’ve learned about the nature of conflict during my graduate studies at the University of Denver and the more than 10 years of practice since then. My life-long interest in the dynamic forces that shape and change communities led me to pursue my M.A. in Conflict Resolution with a special focus on community mediation and dialogue facilitation, and my study and practice have led me to make what may seem to be a very counterintuitive observation:
Far from being the negative experience most of us think of, conflict is a powerful and constructive force for good!
There, I said it, and yes, I believe it. If you look at the Chinese character for conflict and crisis, you’ll see that it is made of the characters for “danger” and “opportunity”. Conflict can lead us through danger to opportunity, not only for the resolution of differences, but for the attainment of a higher level of understanding of each other and the part we all play in creating and nurturing our communities. I believe in and embrace conflict and have chosen to make helping others in my community to value conflict, and engage in it positively and productively, the work of my life.
In the Higher Ground perspective, the notions of conflict and community cannot be separated, and this will be the focus of much of my writing here, just as it is in my mediation practice. Before I get into the weeds, though, it’s important to understand what is meant by these terms. I’ll be writing extensively on the nature of conflict in the weeks and months to come, but let me first explain why community is such an important element of the Higher Ground Community Mediation practice:
- Much of the “baby boom” generation is moving well into the years of Honored Elder status, the largest demographic population ever to do so, and with that distinction comes the need for them and their families to make some of the most important decisions of their lives;
- Neighborhoods, both urban and rural, are steadily becoming more diverse, as are the needs and interests of their residents, and these intersections of cultural values and traditions are subjected to stresses that can be increasingly challenging and unpredictable;
- The pursuit of economic prosperity through business and employment is becoming more complicated every day, and workplace environments are deeply affected by the shifting currents of the societies to which they not only provide services, but also draw upon for the workforce that they must rely on to remain viable.
These are only three of the countless stages upon which our modern lives are played out, and which together make up those often intangible but always indispensable units of social organization that we call communities. And of course, hanging over all of these is the pressure of living in the age of a viral pandemic that has upended nearly every idea of what is normal, and continues to challenge our capacity to hold ourselves, in all of our amazing diversity and humanity, together in sustainable community.
Conflict. As my fellow graduate students used to say with only a small hint of irony, “conflict – it’s a growth industry”. But like any industry or other social institution, growth can only be justified by its response to the needs of the community. And so, if conflict is inevitable, as history teaches us it is, then it must be approached, not as an obstacle to be avoided, but as a tool, an instrument with which we test our determination to move forward constructively as a “community of communities”, so to speak. In doing so, we can find the pathways into that space with the as yet undiscovered revelations that only a constructive approach to conflict can bring to us.
I look forward with anticipation and excitement to exploring the possibilities, the opportunities, that embracing constructive conflict will bring to our families, neighborhoods, workplaces – in short, all of the communities in which we meet each other, not overwhelmed and isolated by the floodwaters, but on the Higher Ground of our highest aspirations. And I invite you to join me, there is so much to discover about each other and ourselves on this journey!
In peace and the spirit of community, Dave