Long plane rides often bring me fresh ideas, or at least give me time to think in fresh, new ways. Flying from Newark to San Francisco is perfect. Just about six hours with little distraction from my writing and musings. Sometimes!
On this particular plane were a brother and a sister, two or so years apart, I guessed. They were attractive, well behaved children whose parents were also attractive and well behaved; all on the row behind me near the very front, two behind me, two across.
I began to read, ready to finish my newest addition, a workbook for newly minted female supervisors. Lately, so many I had mentored had gotten promotions as the ghastly economic times of the past few years seem to be moving into greener territory. They have been requesting a small book, a reference they could turn to when the annoyances of being a leader made them loose their sure footing.
The young ones in back of me were busy with the electronic gear for just about half the ride. Then the bickering started. I remember the noise of my two when they were preteens. Initially the parents ignored the “Give me that” “No, it’s mine” that became “You are a jerk” and on and on.
I became a curious onlooker of this verbal drama as did most of the others in seats near the two. I so wanted to intervene, yet, they were not my charges. Finally the father told them in a just above hushed voice to “knock it off”. They did.
Until another rash broke out about a book. The mother left her window seat and stood in the aisle, asked for the book as I twisted my neck to see what the title was that caused so much grief; Harry Potter, I should have guessed. Then the mother who looked like a no- nonsense corporate type, talked to her children in a stern, controlled manner.
She gave them a message I so often hear in business meetings; one that shows a clear devotion to order rather than justice. She did what I remember doing when my youngsters, two years apart would fight. I’d get the older one to give in to the younger one for the sake of peace, or I might add, for the illusion of peace.
The younger one, the boy got the book and yes, there was an absence of tension, a calm that was appreciated on that small, silver metal box flying in the sky. I looked back at the sister and saw the upset and distaste linger as she whispered to her brother “I’ll get you back when mom and dad are not around”. My thought was “I’ll bet you do.”
I went back to helping female supervisors take their leadership place at the table. And, suddenly I had some key ideas that would be early in the book thanks to those children and their parents.
THE ABSENCE OF TENSION IS TRULY AN ILLUSION OF PEACE AND HARMONY.
The yearning to get to solutions too quickly at work, at home, in the community, merely stops the stress momentarily. Yes, there is relief; however, sadly the best ideas are never birthed. And, as important, there is no learning on how to negotiate new, better ways to solve issues.
Negative peace is the absence of anxiety and stress. Positive peace takes more work and a strong stomach. It means permitting the tension to stick around as a level of what is fair is discussed, and that is not super obvious at first blush.