Hi, welcome to the first week of our advanced English reading course. Today we are going to talk about one of the most important subjects in our 36 week program: conflicts, and how to resolve them. We’ll go from the heights of Greek tragedy and the Peloponnesian war, to the dark tones of gangster rap. But first, let’s take a quick dose of advanced English vocabulary before we do this week’s advanced reading exercise
Five key words/expressions
- Fleeting: temporary/short-lived
E.g. Her love was just a fleeting emotion. Fleeting – fugaz/breve – is often a sad word. It is frequently used to describe something that ends too quickly. Thus, when a pop star only has one popular song we talk about his fleeting fame. If you suddenly had a doubt but then realised everything was okay, you would say it was a ‘fleeting sensation.’ Use the word: Would you describe The Beatles fame as fleeting? If not what would you describe it as?
- Squabbles: minor fights and disagreements
E.g. The two brothers were always involved in squabbles. A squabble – una disputa – is translated into most languages as ‘a fight,’ but the fact is that it is almost always used to describe fights that have no importance or that are about something stupid. Use the word: Is it a good idea to constantly squabble with the owner of your company?
- Sibling: a non-gender specific term for a brother or sister
E.g. Older siblings are always bossy. Sibling – hermano/a – is the way in which you talk about brothers and sisters without having to say ‘brothers and sisters.’ A good example of its use would be the film entitled ‘Sibling Rivalry.’ Use the word: Would you like to have more siblings than you currently have?
- Ruthless: without scruples or reserve in trying to get something.
E.g. Hitler was a ruthless politician. A ruthless person – una persona despiadada – is a person who will do anything to achieve what they want and they don’t care who they hurt. Ruthless is something that I hope that none of my students are… except in their determination to speak advanced English. Use the word: Is it necessary to be ruthless to become a director of your company?
- To home in on: to focus on and exclude everything else.
E.g. The marketing department needs to home in on the problem. To home in on – centrarse en – is more than focus… it sometimes has an aggressive aspect to it. If someone has a tendency to see the negative in something you’ll say “you always home in on the bad things she does.” Use the word: Do you think we should home in on the present perfect continuous? If not, what should we home in on.
Now it’s time to repeat todays words – Squabble disputa, Sibling hermano/a, Ruthless despiadado, To home in on centrarse en, and Fleeting fugaz/breve – Okay, let’s listen to this week’s audio, but remember, this class is just one module of the unique learning experience called Ingocio. Visit ingocio.com and start improving your career, your general knowledge, and your English. Download the free version… now!
Listening and Advanced English Reading – Harmony: part 1
I’d like you to imagine for a moment a world of perfect harmony in which you have no problems and no negative thoughts about anyone – not your ex, your boss, your colleagues, not even those annoying people who invite you to play games on Facebook. Just imagine it (pause and sigh) And now… kiss it goodbye… Because class 2 of Ingocio is all about what makes that world impossible…
Conflict is an inevitable part of relationships, and many aren’t just fleeting squabbles: they have life-long consequences; divorce – with its effect on husband, wife and children – being the best example. Even if you have a peaceful life, a disagreement can emerge at any moment – whether it’s with a business partner or a sibling, and often, your friendships, marriage and career, depend on how you manage these disagreements.
That’s why it’s amazing that our education system teaches us nothing about conflict resolution. We’re busy filling kids’ heads with how photosynthesis works… but we never talk about how life works. If conflict can make or break us, shouldn’t we teach our children about it? Shouldn’t we, as adults, understand it better? When your kid is being bullied or he grows up and his ex-wife is denying him visiting rights to his kids… how the hell is the fact that plants convert Co2 into Oxygen going to help him?
And it’s not just about individuals; understanding the nature of conflict and how to resolve it, is important for families, communities and businesses, so today I’d like to initiate a dialogue on the subject.
Normally, the Ingocio seminar on personal and professional conflict lasts for an afternoon… and in this class we have approximately… four minutes… so, I’ve decided to take the most important points from that seminar and condense them into a concise form. These are the five principles that both sides must remember when trying to resolve a conflict.
Number 1: Be realistic: Most conflicts are not black and white, right and wrong… almost always it’s shades of grey, with right and wrong on both sides. So stop being a fundamentalist believer in your own position.
Number 2: Be humble: There have been many times previously in your life where you were absolutely convinced you were right. But later you saw you were wrong. Therefore, you can never be certain that this is not the case in your current conflict.
Number 3: Be smart: Intelligent people are always aware of two scientifically proven phenomena – selective memory and cognitive bias. Quite simply, people remember what they want, and when looking for evidence they home in on the facts that are convenient, and ruthlessly eliminate the rest. Given this is human instinct… you must be aware that it’s impossible you are being truly fair and objective.
Number 4: Be empathy: During a conflict you must find a quiet place, and try to imagine everything the other person has passed through; the circumstances, misfortunes and factors that make them feel what they feel. You will find your mind rebels at this because you just want to be right, but you must do it. When you see their perspective you will be ready to compromise.
Number 5: Be cautious: ‘winning’ – in inverted commas – a conflict, whether it’s a legal action, a negotiation, or a schoolboy fight, does not end there. The greater your apparent ‘victory’ in inverted commas, the more bitter an adversary you leave behind you. Human beings seek revenge and if you have humiliated your adversary you can guarantee the conflict will return. So always try and leave the fight with both sides gaining something.
Okay, so, taking these five principles together, you’re ready to enter a conflict with the right attitude: back down, open your mind, and get ready to compromise.
Now that we’ve dealt with attitude, we need to deal with behaviour. Due to time constraints, though, I’ll just give you one piece of advice; which, like all good advice, is something we already know, but like all good advice, most of us ignore. It’s about the tone of your voice.
You know that you need to keep it down, and to help you do this I’d like you to think of your voice as a volume button for the argument. If you raise your voice, then your adversary will raise his voice… but, more interestingly, if he raises his voice and you remain calm, then he will lower his tone. The tone and volume are very important in maintaining a civilized discussion and you must understand that you have the ability to control that tone, by keeping your voice calm.
Well, my friends, there’s a lot more I’d like to talk about in this advanced English reading exercise… never conducting conflicts by e-mail, for example, or about toxic people who can never resolve anything, but that’s all we have time for. All I will say in conclusion is that whatever philosophy of conflict resolution you follow … make sure you have one. The worse thing is to experience the inevitable conflicts life throws at you and be bounced around from one to the other, helplessly subject to emotions and circumstances and the force of your adversary. Just as you need life skills like learning to drive, you must learn to navigate your way through conflict without damaging yourself, or those around you.
Ok, I’d like to finish our class today by asking for some student input. Your writing task this week is to visit our website – advancedenglish.net or our Facebook page – advanced English Ingocio – and tell us what you’ve learnt in your life about conflict resolution. We want you to share with the other students any advice you have on the subject. Okay… thanks very much, and we’ll see you next week.
- Kids niños – children. “My wife doesn’t want kids.”
- Shades of grey escalas de grises.– things aren’t so clear. Not black and white. “There’s no black or white only shades of grey.”
- Raise your voice gritar – to speak loudly in anger. “My mother in law is always raising her voice.”
- Fair justo – reasonable and objective. “It’s not fair that she earns more than me.”
- Back down recular (echarse para atrás (Arg.)) – to yield. “He was sure he was right and refused to back down.”
- Bitter amargo – to hold a grudge. “She was very bitter about the divorce.”
- Bounce rebotar – to go up and down. “The ball bounced.”
- What is Rokeby’s problem with photosynthesis?
- Who else apart from individuals would benefit from understanding conflict better?
- What are the favourite colours of a fundamentalist believer in their own argument?
- If you try and be empathetic what will be your mind’s first reaction?
- What do humans try and seek upon being humiliated?
- That learning about it won’t help children deal with real life problems.
- Families, communities and businesses.
- black and white.
- It will rebel because you just want to be right.