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In Pursuit of Absolutes

The title of my monthly newsletter is Putting It in Context.  In the letter I look at conflict, its causes, and the affect it has on companies, organizations, and individuals. The letter looks at the tools and techniques for dealing with conflict, and how I use them in my work. I write about ethics as this is a core principle for effective conflict resolution. My bi-weekly blog also touches on these concepts in that I target a particular issue to give my readers potential ideas that they can apply in their own particular circumstances.

I found myself thinking about absolutes while re-reading a book by George F. Keenan.  He was a diplomat in an era when diplomacy required men to have substance – in their education, their training, their intellect. He wrote books and articles that ultimately defined for decades how the United States would use the doctrine of Containment in its relationship toward the Soviet Union. In his book American Diplomacy, several of the concepts he discussed have application outside of politics to this day. In discussing the concept of Containment, he argued persuasively against the pursuit of absolutes – absolute amity, harmony, security. The foundation of his argument was that in trying to achieve laudable goals you can go too far, get the opposite result and harm the general good of the nation.

This does have a direct bearing on many of the conflicts that occur in companies and organizations. Pursuing desirable goals and objectives can go too far, causing a backlash within a company’s structure damaging the culture, the cohesion of an organization, and potentially the quality and timeliness of the products and services being delivered. In his book he uses more classical language, but the heart of his argument was that going too far in pursuit of an objective is often the product of ego. Anyone who has spent any amount of time in a corporate environment knows that people in positions of authority who are ego driven are at the heart of most conflicts.

One of the things that I stress when helping parties in dispute is the important of identifying and separating the issues and making the mediation about the issues and not the people. Do you have a question? Contact me at, or at 832-452-8537.