If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.” – Moshe Dayan.

For pretty much his entire time, man has been fighting wars against his enemy, which is traditionally also man. Yup, that’s right. Mankind, a species with so much going for it, with such a wonderful potential future ahead, seems to be more interested in spending its time fighting itself.

Irrespective of what these fights are about, there are generally 3 possible outcomes for any given faction –

  1. Win. You beat your enemy, overwhelm them with superior force and strength, until they are so badly destroyed that they can’t stop you and they give in.
  2. Lose. Your enemy kills so many of you and destroys so much of your resources that you can’t fight any longer and you give in, letting them do whatever it was they wanted to do.
  3. Draw. Both sides suffer such heavy losses that they both agree to stop fighting for now and nothing is resolved.

And so the fighting stops for a while. But there is no real lasting resolution. The victor rejoices for a while. The loser goes away and licks their physical wounds, while the psychological wounds run deeper and fester away, ready to resurface later when the loser’s strength and numbers have increased or the winner has got complacent; often it will be some other excuse to start fighting again, but the root cause is the unfinished business from the first fight. And so the destructive cycle continues, fighting until one side loses, both go away, the loser brooding and regrouping, the victor having to keep an eye out for the next attack, neither side able to grow and move on. And should the result be a draw due to mutual attrition, then both sides will regroup and fester and plot until they spot a weakness in the other side and launch the attack anew.

Such has been mankind’s history for longer than there has been history.

However, there is another way. One which doesn’t happen too often but when it does, can lead to lasting peace and growth for both sides. And that is to talk with the enemy. To negotiate with them. To find out just what the heck you are both fighting about and why. Because when two enemies can actually talk about the issues, they open up the very real possibility of finding areas of common ground, areas of mutual interest, areas of potential compromise which do not mean having to “give in” to the other’s demands, but which stem from fostering a mutual respect and understanding and, over time, working together to achieve common aims. Alas this happens all to rarely – it is so much easier just to keep battering the “enemy” down, safe in the knowledge that you are right and they must be wrong, completely rejecting the reality that you re both right and both wrong and both have more in common than you might choose to believe.

Yet when this does happen, it can have very strong positive and rapid results.

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A prime example of this is “The Troubles” (as they were known) regarding Ireland, Northern Ireland & Eire. These had been going on for decades or even centuries, depending upon where you trace the roots. Certainly the open warfare element arose in the 1960s with several different armed groups on all sides being heavily involved in 30 years of ongoing fighting, attacks, terrorism (it all depends upon which side you were on as to which was which). People on all sides were murdered with disturbing regularity, including a great many members of the general public both throughout Ireland and on the British mainland. No end was in sight.
Until the late 1990s which suddenly heralded negotiations and a peace treaty which, whilst not resolving all of the issues overnight, certainly lead to long-term ceasefires, weapons decommissioning, cross-community co-operation and growth, the removal of the British Army, and a cessation of violence in a very short space of time.
What decades of outright and brutal fighting had failed to achieve, discreet discussions and negotiations between the “enemies” on both sides managed to achieve in very short time.
They talked with each other. Listened to each other. Understood what each actually wanted, what each was working towards, and found common ground. Not by fighting but by talking with the enemy.

Far more solid progress can be made by talking with the enemy rather than with friends. Understanding what you are fighting over, understanding what you are both looking to get, understanding that in many cases you have common grounds and aspirations and goals, and realising that the only way to achieve them is to stop fighting and to work together.

Of course, I’m not just talking about armies or countries or towns fighting, am I?

Just like our species at large, each and every one of us is capable of many achievements and a great future; alas also like our species at large, we spend a disproportionate amount of our time fighting ourselves. We face these battles with ourself on a daily basis, sometimes many times in a day, and every single battle is destructive, counter-productive and a waste of our time and resources, holding us back from fulfilling our potential (or even just from making it unscathed through another day).

What do I mean when I say we fight ourselves?

Well consider any time you’ve wanted to do something, anything, and you find yourself in the position where part of you wants to do it, part of you doesn’t. and you have a great long fight with yourself over whether you should or shouldn’t. Sound familiar? When you are in that position, you are fighting yourself! And the sad thing is, the part of you that wants to and the part of you that doesn’t, both reached their position based on wanting what they believe is the best for you – they are both working in your own best interests! Or when you want to do something but this nagging voice at the back of your head says you can’t do it because you are not good enough. Or any of countless other examples where we fight ourselves, but the fight is based upon each aspect of us wanting what is best overall.

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If only we realised!

If only we talked to our own internal enemies instead of fighting them, finding that common ground, working together, how much more could we be?

If only we understood not what each side wants, but why they want it, what is driving them, what do they think it will get for us… Try it. Next time you are “in two minds” about doing something, don’t just write down the age old list of pros and cons; instead, consider what doing it would get for you, what it would mean for you, what the purpose behind it might be. And then do the same for the other side of the argument.
You might be surprised at what comes up…