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The Cracks are Where the Light Gets In

Conflict Management Blog by Cinnie Noble

You may know the song “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen, in which he sings the words: “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” I like this song and the idea of light shining through what might seem like something broken.

In fact, a well-known and regarded conflict practitioner and writer defines conflict as: “… simply the sound made by cracks in a system; regardless of whether the system is personal, relational, familial, organizational, social, economic or political.” (Kenneth Cloke, The Crossroads of Conflict: A Journey into the Heart of Dispute Resolution, 2006)

If we are able to consider that there is something good to see when a dispute causes us to feel dark and dim, we may be able to have a different and better relationship with conflict and ourselves within it. So, it is suggested that that cracks – and where the light gets in – are integral to developing conflict mastery and the ability to focus our energies on what is so important to the other person and to us that leads to conflict between us. The opportunity in identifying that – what’s important to both of us that would result in strong emotion – is critical to consider and explore.

This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog invites you to consider this by bringing to mind a situation in which you and another person provoked one another – resulting in a dispute.

  • What is your perspective on what the dispute was about? What might the other person say it is about?
  • When you were aware that the other person triggered negative emotions in you, what three words describe those emotions?
  • What did you perceive the other person was undermining, challenging, offending, insulting, etc.?
  • What does your answer to the previous question tell you about what is very important to you that the other person undermined, etc.?
  • What do you suppose the other person may not have known or realized about you – in terms of why you reacted strongly?
  • If you think or know the other person is aware of what was important to you and offended you anyway, why do you suppose she or he would do so?
  • What did you specifically say or do that provoked the other person, from what you observed/experienced?
  • What was her or his reaction?
  • What do you think was very important to her or him to have reacted that way? What might she or he perceive you were undermining, challenging, offending, insulting, etc.?
  • What light existed within the cracks for you in this dispute? What light might have been there for her or him?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?



Cinnie Noble

Cinnie Noble is a certified coach (PCC) and mediator and a former lawyer specializing in conflict management coaching. She is the author of two coaching books: Conflict Management Coaching: The CINERGY™ Model and Conflict Mastery: Questions to Guide You. MORE >

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