In this article, I will attempt to touch more heavily upon the second dictionary definition for the word Resolution in the hopes that I can help people understand the importance of it. The second definition being: the action of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter.
In the previous article, we discussed Benjamin Franklin’s statement “Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.” The act of making the conscientious resolution to do that which you should do. Simple enough, right? At least, that’s what I hope you’re thinking. Even though I believe that most everyone can grasp the concept of Brother Ben’s virtue, I believe that the act of solving is a little more difficult. It requires thought, action, and sometimes skills, depending on what it is you intend to resolve. Not everyone has the skills, knows how to problem-solve progressively, or can communicate well enough to resolve a dispute. It is imperative that we learn, especially as Freemasons (and might I add even more so as Freemasons in Utah).
Addressing the Solving of a Problem
We face problems in our everyday activities. Sometimes we know how to resolve the issue due to habit, while on other occasions we can turn to someone else for the answer. With the Internet at our fingertips, we can resource millions upon millions of people, and can quite frequently find the solution we seek with a few clicks of the mouse. While this is indeed a benefit of the Internet, I believe that it is teaching us to not think for ourselves—to not problem solve.
As my wife works from home, she often creates a list of chores for the children to accomplish before they can relax and have fun with friends, play video games, or otherwise engage in their form of recreation. This chore list always consists of homework, and then a few things to do around the house to keep it in order. The other day, one of our children received the chore of mopping the kitchen floor. This child (a brilliant student with aspirations for great things) chose to interrupt my wife’s work to ask how he might go about mopping. When I learned of this, I was dumbfounded. Rather than figuring it out for himself, he decided he would cause a break in the workflow of another. Now, this is just a youth I’ve used as an example, but how many times have we essentially done the same thing?
There are many great resources available through books, and the Internet, to teach yourself how to problem solve. Mindtools.com, Problem Solving 101 (by Ken Watanabe), The Art and Craft of Problem Solving (by Paul Zeitz) are just a few of which I am familiar.
Addressing the Solving of a Dispute, or Contentious Matter
The skill of being able to solve a dispute, or contentious matter, is one to be overlooked. Everyone should—in my humble opinion—learn how to be a mediator; how to be diplomatic and impartial. Any adult should recognize just how useful this skill is as they think back upon their lives. There will, no doubt, be any number of situations where such a talent would have been, or was, a deciding factor of how the situation turned out. We have the extreme where someone is negotiating for someone else’s life as with the hostage negotiator, as well as the foreign diplomat. Then we have the day-to-day interaction with friends, spouses, and family that requires a rather hefty dose of this ability.
Again, there are many different books and websites available for educational purposes in this area. I’ll share with you a couple of steps to get you started:
- Know the Goal – For resolution to happen, you need to know how you want the situation to resolve. You cannot set out on a trip without a destination and eventually get there. In Freemasonry, we progress through our degrees with the knowledge that we want to become at least a Master Mason. With this in mind, we’re able to make steady headway.
- Listen – When involved in a situation where one person (or a group of people) are talking, listening to what they are saying and how they are saying it will help you move through the process of resolution.
- Understand – An excellent way to understand is to repeat your interpretation of things back to the speaker(s) using your own words. Sometimes this stops the conversation short as the other individual processes what you’ve just repeated to them. Sometimes they realize that, no, that wasn’t what they were trying to get across, and they’ll readdress it. Whether they correct it or affirm that you understand, you then need to make sure that it isn’t just words you are processing, but emotion, intent, and the end goal.
- Remain Calm, Cool, and Collected – No matter the other person’s emotional condition, but remaining in control of your emotions, temperament, and conduct you have a greater chance of success than otherwise. When I was attending the Police Academy many years ago they taught us to act in degrees directly related to the incident. In other words, should an irate individual berate me, threaten me, and otherwise be unreasonable; were I to respond in kind I would likely end up in a far worse situation than if I were to react calmly. However, if they aren’t responding to one method of approach (in other words, if they don’t understand it), then you are to try another. Responding in kind doesn’t mean you immediately escalate, but rather that you try different words, body language, and delivery.
- Know When to Deviate – This is, perhaps, one of the trickiest aspects of resolving a dispute. It requires a willingness to be fluid in the way one arrives at the resolution while still maintaining the goal of the resolution. Often, the path to your destination is not the only path, and it most certainly isn’t the only path in everyone’s eyes. Don’t be stubborn where you don’t have to. Don’t say “No” for the sake of being “right” in your opinion. Provided it isn’t going to cause someone harm to deviate from your initial path, there’s no issue in allowing a compromise.
- Remove All Expectations – I generally find this to be an excellent rule of thumb for everything in my life. However, in this particular article, I am referring to not allowing yourself to enter into a dispute with any expectation concerning the participant’s behavior, knowledge, motivation, or history. It is always easy to judge a book by the cover, but more often than not you’re dead wrong when you get into the meat of it. First impressions are a horrible life vehicle to use to conduct yourself. Learn to withhold expectations, and you’ll find you are better able to approach anything that comes your way objectively.
To wrap it all up in a neat little package I’ll bring the article back around to Freemasonry, and how we can apply this version of the virtue within the Craft. Our ancient and honorable fraternity is associated with problem-solving from its inception. Termed “Free-Thinkers” in most circles (often thought of in derogatory terms since those circles were opposed to such freedoms), our past brethren put to stone the tools of our trade in an effort to better lives, right wrongs, and gain freedoms. In addition to this recognition, the Craft has been long known to be upright men who can be approached to solve disputes in ethical and honorable ways. As we continue to raise public awareness of our Order and the good effects it has on men within our communities, Utah, and beyond; members of our fraternity will be called upon to solve problems, to resolve disputes, and we need to be ready to do just that.