Tips, Videos, Handouts

How to Untangle a Conflict

From his campsite at Baxter State Park in Northern Maine, Craig untangles a knot in his bear bag line and explains how untangling knots in rope is like untangling conflicts in groups.

Listening loosens and telling tightens, Craig explains.

Here’s what Craig says in the video:

Hi everybody. Hey, Craig Freshley here. I’m at Long Pond in Baxter State Park and I want to show you something. Now right here, this is what we call a bear bag. We have to hang our food up in the tree so a bear doesn’t wrestle through our tent to get the food. But as I was hanging this bear bag last night, I found a knot in the rope. And I want to talk about this knot a little bit.

See, knots are like groups. Sometimes we get ourselves tangled and it seems like an impossible situation. Maybe some people are angry at each other, there’s probably some false truths going around, there’s probably multiple truths, and as a group we have to figure out this knot.

Now a couple principles of untying knots. One is, relieve the tension. If I have a knot in the middle of a tense situation it’s very, very difficult to untangle. So whatever is causing more tension, we take that away first.

Second principle of undoing a knot is that I’m always focused on loosening. I’m not forcing anything, I’m pulling on loops and I’m pulling things apart rather than pushing together.

And in a group, it’s like the difference between listening and telling. I can tell other people in my group how things should be. I can tell other people how angry I am. Or I can listen to what other people have to say. I can give them room to tell their stories. And when I do that, things loosen up and knots become untangled. It takes patience and it takes releasing of tension. And it takes listening like loosening rather than tightening like telling. And with a little patience and a soft touch, and making room for each string to be who it wants to be and go where it wants to go, we can untangle a knot pretty easily.

I’m not going to spend more time on this…..well maybe we got the whole thing done….do we? Almost. I’m not going to take your time getting to the very end. But you can see that if something starts to get tight, I stop pulling tension; I loosen and I pull things apart.

That’s how we untangle knots attached to bear bags and that’s how we untangle knots in groups.

Thanks for listening everybody. Here’s hoping that you help your group make good decisions.

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