Tara West

March 10, 2023

I have two houseplants, Aloe and Matilda, who I have miraculously kept alive for close to three years now. And I've noticed that, even though they’re sitting right next to each other, Aloe grows toward my west-facing windows, while Matilda grows toward my north-facing windows. Actually, a few of Matilda's many stems, which curve in various ways, seem to be getting light from both windows, with each leaf at a slightly different angle.

Fortunately, I don’t need to direct Aloe and Matilda to grow toward a specific window; nor do I need to figure out the proper bend for each stem or angle for each leaf. All I need to do is supply the conditions - soil, water, and access to light. Aloe and Matilda take care of the rest.

To relate this to conflict (of course), what is the light for us humans? Where do we naturally want to go, and what are the optimal conditions?

According to the transformative theory of conflict, the “light” is the place where we’re taking good care of ourselves without harming others. We’re making choices that align with our values, and are treating others with fairness and consideration, even when we disagree.

That’s where we assume humans in conflict would like to be, but exactly what that will look like, or the path they'll take to get there, we can neither predict nor force. We simply have faith that each person is trying to find their way to that place, and we support them wherever they are along the way.

So why do we believe this is where humans want to go, and that our support can help them get there? And what is this thing we're calling "support," exactly?

These are topics that my colleague and co-author, Dan Simon, and I discussed in a talk we gave to mediators last week, which you can watch here:


If you have a chance to check it out, we’d love to hear your thoughts!

And if you'd like to discuss this post, I'd love to hear from you on LinkedIn or Facebook!


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