Conflicts of Interest Blog by Vivian Scott
The movie, Argo, recounts events that took place during the Iran hostage crisis in 1980. Since it’s based on a true story I’m not letting the cat out of the bag when I tell you there’s a scene at the Tehran airport in which six Americans, posing as Canadian filmmakers, work their way past armed guards in the hopes of returning home safely. The scene is dramatic; very dramatic. I was on the edge of my seat as the group was questioned, their story verified at the last possible moment, and then again when the plane is chased by zealous militias who have discovered the cover is a ruse. Oh my!!!
A few days after seeing the film I read an article about two of the Americans involved. They said that even though they were horribly nervous and afraid during their ordeal, what actually took place at the airport was nothing as dramatic as what is portrayed in the movie. In fact, the truth is a bit of a yawner.
As I read the article, I realized that the way in which my mediation clients talk about conflict is often more in line with a Hollywood script than it is with the potentially boring truth. It seems to play to the audience better if one uses the phrase “attacked me” rather than “snapped at me.” Or, when I ask someone what they think may be behind a co-worker’s behavior, I almost always get an answer that implies some sort of complicated, sinister plot rather than a thoughtful reply with a less exciting explanation. My daughter and I have an inside joke that whenever one’s story begins with, “There I was, just minding my own business…” you know the description of the evil villain is coming sooner rather than later.
I’m not saying I’m above telling stories with a little Hollywood flair, because, well, I’m not. I’m working hard at being mindful of the picture I paint, though, and I’m getting pretty good at editing my version of what happened. Still, some days I just need to shout, “Cue the crescendo!”
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