Equal and Opposite

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” – Sir Isaac Newton
Newton’s third law of classical mechanics states: “When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction to that of the first body.”
Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Well, maybe in classical mechanics and physics. But in the world of personal and professional conflicts, consequences don’t work that way.
Case in point:

  • Sue talks about James behind his back to Harriet (action)
  • James never hears about it, because Harriet doesn’t think Sue’s analysis is on the ball.
  • Many years later, James hears about Sue’s comments from Harriet in the office and laughs (reaction).

Most of us would not characterize James’ response equal or opposite. 
We would call it mature and reasonable based upon where it occurs (in the office), or immature and dismissive (at a party); and the context under which it occurs, at a corporate meeting (while sober) versus at a private dinner party (while intoxicated). 
The thing that flummoxes us as people in conflict is the problem of our perspective on time.

Consequences (reactions) upon a body in classical mechanics occur, from the researchers’ perspective, almost immediately in the physical world.

However, in a conflict, minutes, hours, days, months, and even years can pass between the trigger of a conflict and the actual conflict scenario itself (reaction) in the abstract world.

Abstraction versus the physical: Both of them require appropriate preparation to address consequences of actions. 
However, understanding the others’ identity, the others’ perspective, the others’ worldview and the others’ response is incredibly important in responding to the consequences of a conflict regardless of whenthe consequence occurs.
Ok, so what do we do about time?
-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: hsconsultingandtraining@gmail.com

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