Pack up your conflicts and go to the beach.

Pack up your conflicts and go to the beach.

  • April 16, 2014

When I need to detox my mind and soul, I pull out my favorite conflict resolution tool: I go to the beach.

One of the easiest conversations in my family is about potential destinations for a short get-away. Ten times out of eleven, the decision is unanimous: Let’s go to the beach.

On our recent mini-vacation, I was sitting in the sand, taking in the sound of the waves and admiring the golden hues of the sun setting over the horizon. I was decompressing very nicely, when the peaceful beach scene was interrupted by the din of a group of seagulls fighting ferociously over a priceless treasure: a Ziploc bag with mysterious contents, washed up on the shore.

The birds were shrieking, taking turns pecking at each other and the bag. Occasionally, one brave winged creature tried to take flight holding the bag in its beak, only to be stopped by the competition just a few inches off the ground. The crowd of fighter birds was growing. Moments ago, they had been effortlessly soaring above the waves alongside each other, and now they were enemies awkwardly hopping on the sand, each one single-mindedly focused on taking home the prize.

The seagulls were quite oblivious to the fact that a Ziploc bag might not be their best choice for dinner, and equally oblivious to the fact that more nutritious entrees were available just a few feet away.

I couldn’t help but notice how much those feathered beings were like many humans trying to work through a conflict – arguing fiercely over the issue right in front of them, blind to potentially better alternatives, and unable to see the bigger picture.

“Go to the balcony,” suggests author William Ury in his negotiation classic Getting Past No  – take a break, physically or at least mentally, and give yourself a moment to breathe, calm down, and regroup.

Personally, I like to go to the beach. And when things get a bit too heated in the dogged pursuit of winning the prize, that’s what I suggest to my clients. Even if you only close your eyes and picture the ocean – it’s a great way to gain some perspective. That thing right in front of you that you are fighting over – how much does it really matter in the ebb and tide of life? There will be another wave in just a moment. Another opportunity washing ashore. Another treasure waiting to be revealed. And if you spread your wings for a few precious seconds, you’ll get a glimpse of the bigger picture.

So, let’s pack up our conflicts and go to the beach. Are you ready?