Friday, December 3, 2010

KeFactors Friday: Conflict in Reality

Perfect lives do not create interest. Few movie blockbusters or bestselling novels are
based on perfect people who lead perfect lives, free of danger, ill will, or distress. Such stories don’t entertain. There’s no suspense to them.

Just because a TV program’s called a reality show doesn’t mean it honors reality. Most
reality shows are loosely scripted—but scripted nonetheless—for friction, elimination, rejection, and confrontation. Consequently, reality show players are volatile, quick to fly off the handle. They confront before they have all the facts and offer up behind-the-back candor. There’s also a great deal of name-calling and cussing, and the sort of behaviors which—if you saw it out in public—would make you cross the street with your kids toavoid it.

The concern, of course, is that this bleeds into everyday life. Human beings are visually
inclined and thus visually influenced. Watch enough people flying off the handle, and you come to believe it’s socially acceptable.

Who’d object if you blasted your horn at the driver ahead of you, slow to move after the
light turns green? Did a co-worker irritate you? Maybe this person irritates everyone in the office, so what would be so wrong with blowing your stack at her? Maybe you’ve got a customer who’s constantly nagging and complaining, so dealing with him is exhausting. Who would hold it against you for confronting him with your objections to his behavior?

We’ve become so anxious about detecting how we’re being “disrespected,” we’ve
forgotten what it is to give respect. Conflict is not a green light for physical, mental, or verbal abuse. As natural and inevitable as it is to experience conflict and anger, don’t give up your right to choose. Your reactions are your choices. Your reactions are within your power to choose.
The role of conflict in reality TV is to drive up ratings.

The role of conflict in reality is
to tell us, “Something’s wrong here. Something important needs to be worked out.” How you participate in a solution says a lot about who you are, as a professional and a human being.

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