“Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”
September 28, 2009 4:50 AM   Subscribe

I want to become more of a peacemaker.

So I have this friend, let's call him Andrew. Andrew is awesome for a lot of reasons, but he has one quality in particular that I admire more than most: Andrew wants everyone to get along with each other, more than anything else.

Example: we're drunkenly playing board-games at the end of a long day of fun and games at the lake-house. Bill and I get into a semi-heated (but mostly harmless) argument over an ambiguous rule, the outcome of which will determine which team is the game's winner. Andrew invents a side-game, on the spot, based on another rule, to distract us and get us to agree that the winner will determine the outcome of the current argument. 3 minutes later we're all laughing and on to the next game, even though Andrew's team lost the previous game.

Example 2: we're at our weekly ultimate frisbee game and in the middle of a match neither team can remember nor agree on the score. I'm pretty sure we're up at least 5-2, when Andrew, who knows the same to be true, yells to the other side of the field "OK ZERO-ZERO GAME TO 3" and everyone nods and off we go. This happens regularly.

Andrew is always the one who wants everyone to be at ease with each other, even if its at some detriment to himself. He has no pride or personal stake to guard, he simply wants the group to get along, focus on the positives and commonalities, and laugh at life. Simply put, Andrew creates an atmosphere of peace in any circle that he is a part of.

I'm blessed to have a friend like Andrew, but he's also inspired me - I want to be more like that, and I know I'm not, at least naturally. But I still would like to work on changing that - I'd like to be less competitive, more positive and encouraging, and thinking more about how I can make others more at peace - with each other and the group at large.

I'm interested in any mental hacks / tips / tricks, habits to try to practice, or even physical reminders or anything else I'm not even thinking of that can help me see opportunities for bringing peace amongst those I interact with. What have you done to look out less for yourself and more for peace amongst others?

I am a Christian so please feel free to comment from that perspective - as I am aware that peacemaking is one of Christ's foci in his message. But I'm open to and particularly interested in ideas from any / all perspectives, be they other religions or those who swear the idea of religion off altogether, if yall might be so kinds as to share.
posted by allkindsoftime to Human Relations (10 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My husband and I were introduced to the concept of consensus when we got involved with a cohousing group, and we later brought it to our church and now use it instead of majority-rule. Consensus is (among other things) a decision-making model that emphasizes relationship, common ground, listening, and problem-solving together. All elements of peace-making, I think!

One of the big things I learned from consensus was to stop framing an issue as Me Against Them, and instead to see it as Us Against a Problem. When I let go of who's right and wrong and my need to win or prove a point, and instead see myself as part of a group coming up with a creative solution, it gives me more compassion and patience.

For online reading about consensus I recommend C.T. Butler's "Guide to Formal Consensus".

Good luck, I think this is an admirable goal!
posted by alicat at 5:04 AM on September 28, 2009 [5 favorites]

I'd like to be less competitive

It's difficult to be less competitive if you have a strong need to win, or not to lose. So, this is where to focus. The alternative is to compete as a martyr
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:40 AM on September 28, 2009

Best answer: I'm interested in any mental hacks / tips / tricks, habits to try to practice, or even physical reminders or anything else I'm not even thinking of that can help me see opportunities for bringing peace amongst those I interact with. What have you done to look out less for yourself and more for peace amongst others?

I was riding in a cab with my roommate. The cabbie pressed the extra passenger button twice. It was obviously deliberate. I whispered in her ear: "he pressed the extra passenger button twice, that's wrong." We rode to our destination. I whispered in my roommate's ear again: "Watch this." Just as we pulled up I said: "I think you accidentally pressed the extra passenger button twice." The cabbie said, "Oh I'm sorry" and took the $1.50 off.

As we got out of the cab I said to my roommate: "Jedi mind-tricks, works everytime."

Always give them an out where their pride can be easily salvaged.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:58 AM on September 28, 2009 [5 favorites]

Always give them an out where their pride can be easily salvaged.

This, a thousand times over.

Also, a lot of silly conflicts arise over false dilemmas. Recognizing these quickly will also help in recognizing the middle ground. Honestly, I've picked up more than a few examples of this right here on Metafilter.

I used to spend a lot of time reading about effective arguments (and especially the fallacies) with the intent of becoming a better arguer. What's happened instead is that I've learned to see how folks are framing 'their side', which also tells me where they're coming from and why.

As regards a Christian point of view, examples abound - here's the web page of an Episcopal church's parish peacemaking group. See also the Catechism of the Catholic Church, starting at section 2302:
Respect for and development of human life require peace. Peace is not merely the absence of war, and it is not limited to maintaining a balance of powers between adversaries. Peace cannot be attained on earth without safeguarding the goods of persons, free communication among men, respect for the dignity of persons and peoples, and the assiduous practice of fraternity. Peace is "the tranquillity of order." Peace is the work of justice and the effect of charity.
posted by jquinby at 7:14 AM on September 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Learn the difference between a peacemaker and peacekeeper.

A peacemaker will find a way to build consensus and figure out what's worth fighting for and what's not.

A peacekeeper wants peace at any cost, including allowing your own boundaries to be trampled, and pretending to agree with things that are not true.
posted by The Deej at 7:49 AM on September 28, 2009

I am a peacemaker. Always have been - even when I was little. It was just something I was born (cursed) with. I feel like I'm hyper-vigilant to everyone around me and the moods they are in. The slightest discontent from others and I get thrown into peacemaking mode - smoothing things over . . . distracting them from their irritation, anger, raised levels of negativity. It ties me up in knots, my heart races . . .I try to fix what's wrong and if I can't, the anxiety starts eating me up.

Perhaps I just don't know how to use my super power correctly.

So, if indeed you are able to become a peacemaker, then I am now thanking you on behalf of Andrew for taking some of the pressure off him. It's a big job.

Now - how to become a peacemaker. I have noticed that it's because I am SUPER VIGILANT of the people around me. I can read people's body language quite well so that situations rarely get to a dire point. I think this is key - being very very aware of those around you and being able to interpret their actions and then diffusing the situation early on.

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God. I pray every day that's true.
posted by Sassyfras at 7:53 AM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Learn to be an arbitrator. Listen hard to what people really want/need; try to help them move towards that. Listen a lot. It's okay for 2 people to have a spirited, even heated, disagreement, but when it starts to get sour, or just gets boring and repetitive, have a new topic or activity ready, as Andrew did. But it sounds like Andrew may be a bit premature. Praise people, sincerely. It makes them feel great. We live in a world of sarcasm and downright meanness. You don't have to perpetuate it.

The Society of Friends has a commitment to peace and consensus. Hang out with them, even if you don't share their religion; join them in peace activism. They teach by example. It's very powerful and contagious.
posted by theora55 at 9:14 AM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's a worthy goal, but one thing to keep in mind is that sometimes light-hearted disputes are fun. Those who are always trying to solve disagreements run the risk of looking like they're trying a bit too hard to be saviors when nobody involved in the argument was upset in the first place.
posted by invitapriore at 10:04 AM on September 28, 2009

I'm a mediator, and suggest getting training in mediation, although it's not exactly what he is doing. One core function that he is doing is to take people off of positions and into underlying issues; 'Us Against a Problem' above is working the same vector.

Arguing is a good and necessary thing if done well; "The Transition to Parenthood" is an out-of-print book which looked at couples after they had children; most did not get better in their relationships, those that did argued about issues. What they didn't do was get vicious by calling names, cursing, etc.

In both mediation and that book, for an aggrieved party to feel they have been heard is critical. Andrew is short-circuiting this by getting people to implicitly agree that their position is worth less that the issue of cooperation. Deflection is a technique used by Adult Children of Alcoholics (among others) to smooth things over, but it does not resolve any underlying issues. So the party can continue, but the situation may well pop up again later if those issues are just pasted over.

This is an interesting article. "Losing $100 makes people feel more than twice as bad as winning $100 makes people feel good." Which means that perspective is all-important. We are biased to be self-deceptive in our own favor, and seldom enjoy having it pointed out.

Which rolls the circle back to yourself, γνῶθι σεαυτόν. Enjoy the journey.
posted by dragonsi55 at 11:13 AM on September 28, 2009

Have you talked to Andrew about it? It might be nice for him to hear, and maybe he can tell you about whoever he learned it from. Might be interesting.
posted by Lou Stuells at 3:06 PM on September 28, 2009

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