Friday, November 12, 2010

One Woman's Mission to Have Peace with Teenagers

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can be, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very soul.

The jihad rages on at our house, with no one listening, no one laughing and supposedly, everyone else gets what they want but "XXXX". Fill in the names here for your home, "She always, he always, you always, yada, yada, lots of whining here, but never me." Territories gets staked, angry words get hurled and the daily hiding of remotes & Xbox controllers become the secret battle of the front lines as the war escalates. Life sure was simpler when I could just have them go outside and play in those orange and yellow cars or ride the Big Wheel.

Sure, these battles only last minutes a day now and for the most part life is joyous and fun, but its the lingering effects General Mom worries about. I picked up an old classic at the library book sale a few weeks ago, "How to Win Friends & Influence People" by Dale Carnegie, with the intent to get some fresh approaches for an ongoing turf battle at work that I desired to have come to an end. I believe I read this an part of a UB PR class decades ago, but apparently only retained a smidgen of it. Written in the 1930s (yes, during the depression), Dale harnessed some important principles and noted wonderful lessons learned by some of our countries great leaders; Ben Franklin, Theodore Roosevelt and even Abraham Lincoln. As I read I was astonished to think these great leaders at one point wrestled with some of the same issues I have in life for listening and communicating, in that, I had a strong overwhelming desire to take charge, assert my opinion and tell people when they are wrong, especially when they are, and no one wants to listen. Frankly, it never helps matters to tell someone they are wrong. It just makes them dig in harder and not give up their position and then they hate, or at the very least, stomp up to their room.

What, no mudslinging? No name calling? Where's great magic technique I was looking for here? What do you mean Abraham Lincoln had to learn this?

Principle 4: Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.

Principle 5: Talk in Terms of the other person interests.

Principle 6: Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely. (We all go through life wanting to feel important, to know what we do matters, that our viewpoint is validated, that our daily lives are appreciated).

Principle 9: Be sympathetic with other persons ideas and desires.

Dale Carnegie talked about never telling the other people they are wrong, even if they are. People need to feel important and will always deny they are wrong and then nothing will be gained. Lincoln, Franklin and Roosevelt all actually had to be taught these lessons and changed their lives when they did so. They needed to be educated. If it can work for them, maybe I can use this at home and at work.

I started with the basics: Become genuinely interested in the other people and smile, use their name, inquire about their families and their day. Say hi Jack, hi Bob and take a minute to inquire about their health, their day, their family, their favorite teams. Begin with the basic human connection. I like starting the day at home sharing coffee with the twins and at night asking for a story about everyone's day. Smiling and saying names matters. Don't sweat the small stuff. I began to find my days got easier and smoother.

In the middle of reading this book, I had to stop and go back to a wonderful book a friend gave me to read, "Three Cups of Tea; One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time" by Greg Mortenson ( Lynne invited me to hear him speak this past week at UB as part of their lecturer series. I confess I am still slowly absorbing the book and the ideas of one man deciding to build schools for girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan through the Central Asia Institute ( Education in the key as I always tell my kids. Learn your whole life, it's important and it never ends. And I give them the example of my learning about computers coming 10 years after I left college and then running a website becoming my main job 30 years later, all skills I learned one stop at a time. Ask questions, inquire, be shown, take those training sessions even when its not part of your job, be aware, grow. It never ends.

Greg Mortenson talks about sharing 3 Cups of Tea in his mission to get permission and support for his ideas to build schools for girls. First cup of tea, you are strangers, Second Cup of tea, you are a friend, Third Cup of tea you are family and they will lay down their life to protect you and help you. The third cup can take years and its a matter of respect and acceptance of you, but also they know you respect them. So to get education to be approved for girls by the building of schools, Greg had to begin by respecting and listening to other cultures, not go in shoving down the American ideas that everyone is entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. See, educating girls changes and at the same time respects the Muslim culture because woman are the key in their culture. Boys who are educated leave their villages and do not share their knowledge, woman who are educated share and educate their communities. Woman who can read have better hygiene, which saves millions of lives from disease; have less children; which reduces the world-wide population explosion and woman who are educated will change the world by rising against senseless death and destruction and educating their communities to do the same.

Did you know that in Muslin countries before men go on a jihad, they must get the permission of their mothers? Yes, their mothers. Just think how few might get approved if the woman really understood the choices available instead when they are educated.

I tell my kids repeatedly, the world is ever changing and you must change with it, but in some respects, it remains the same. The basic tenets of family and community reign supreme and to solve many world problems you must start there, you must understand them and be educated by them. During the UB lecture, Greg Mortenson talked about his book becoming mandatory reading in the US military and many great universities of this land, all starting with General Petraeus, Commander of US forces in Afghanistan.
And who who educated the General on this great book? His wife, Holly.

Mortenson shared these principles that General Petraeus pulled from the book:

Build Relationships
Listen More(especially from the other person's point of view)
Respect & humility (their communities and families)

Wow, the same issues that Ben Franklin talked about 200 years ago, that Dale Carnegie wrote about in his book, the same things Greg took as the key to get permission to change the world by educating the children in a different way, are the same things our great commanders like General Petraeus, are instructing their troops on today.

I was awed when I noted this in the presentation. Greg also told an interesting story about meeting the Taliban, the same big bad Taliban that is out to kill Americans and who regularly took all their bombs to blow-up the schools where the tiny little girls go to schools, as if they were afraid of them. These same Taliban were open to discussing maybe allowing a school to be built and Greg took them for a tour of another school and the playground. What happened? The Taliban dropped their guns, and ran to play on the slides & swings. They stayed their for 90 minutes and then said he could build a school as long as it had a playground.

Greg showed respect and listened and the Taliban said yes. He didn't condemn them or their culture, or tell them they were wrong; he listened. Maybe it IS just the simple things of caring and giving people the basics of humanity, to listen and show respect.
Maybe all we need to do in Afghanistan is build playgrounds so everyone can have fun instead of war.

Any maybe all I need to do is find a big wheel that fits a 6 footer.