So much of political debate is built on a win-lose model – sometimes because one party digs in their heels; sometimes because both parties do so. My wife, Sue Clark, calls this the ‘model one’ approach (see her book with Mel Myers – Managing Difficult Conversations at Work, 2007, Management Books). It invariably leads to unresolved problems – in the long-term, if not always in the short-term. Unfortunately, Brexit is being set up by the Government to be conducted on a model one basis. (May v Sturgeon is already there!).
Sue and Mel argue that there are three fundamental problems with a model one approach – we do not question our assumptions (‘Brexit – that is what I mean by Brexit – means Brexit’); we don’t approach problem solving as a genuine partnership (we’ll use our foreign nationals as bargaining chips); and do not exchange all relevant information (for example, what would Brexit cost?).
Sue and Mel call model one a ‘closed-to-learning’ approach. It happens in every walk of life. The disagreement within the Church of England over the appointment of Bishop Philip North to the see of Sheffield (he opposes the ordination of women – but has now withdrawn from the nomination) is being conducted in much the same way – it does not alter the domination of a model one approach if some of those involved claim that they are the champions of tolerance and the others are its enemies.
The fourth gift of the kingdom community – learning – is about being ‘open to learning’. Sue and Mel call it a model two approach. It is a profoundly important stance if we want to build bridges and create partnerships – but incredibly difficult when model one is so often the default approach. Model two has to be learnt – and that requires belief in the need to resolve conflict on a win-win basis, practicing the skills it involves time and time again and, often, absorbing in the process, a good deal of hostility and ridicule. However for the Christian, and within the diaconal church, to coin a phrase, ‘there is no other alternative’.