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Conflicting ideas

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

Conflict is drama.  Think of any action movie or television series you have watched or any exciting book you have read and you will see that without conflict between the main protagonists there would be no story.  Nor, were that conflict not to be resolved by fair means or foul, would there be any satisfactory ending.  In other words, a dramatic tale needs a conflict arising at the beginning followed by the plot action where the conflict is carried out and at the conclusion, a settlement of one sort or another.  THE END.

And whilst fiction is always exaggerated drama and larger-than-life situations, this is only a heightened realism because we all deal with conflict, in our private lives and in the workplace, on a daily basis;  ,”and how people deal with conflict shows you the kind of people they are”, according to Stephen Moyer .If you asked me where I feel I am the weakest as a leader I would have to answer that it is in such conflict and drama situations.

It is something that I absolutely hate, which is not surprising because most people would describe conflict in negative terms.   Of course, professionally I don’t mind others’ conflict situations, in fact i love helping resolve them whether it’s an industrial relations issue or a pay dispute but when it comes to something embroiling me and involving me directly – I sometimes feel reduced to a little boy in the playground who is being shouted down and bullied.

This is hardly a good feeling to have if I consider that I have had more business conflicts to deal with in the last 2 years than at any time before but, as someone close to me remarked, maybe that is because you are now prepared to deal with them. Like most of us faced with conflict our psyche seeks to resolve it. We either avoid it or conclude it, any which way we can and as quickly as possible, often to our detriment. We act in haste to stop the feeling of it hanging over our head like the fabled Damoclean sword.

Why in certain conflict situations do I experience my heart rate increasing, throat closing and my mouth becoming drier than Ghandhi’s flip-flops and how can I stop this?  Let me give you a recent example of a client who simply didn’t want to pay her bill. Did you ever buy something and then regret it because it really wasn’t what you wanted or needed or was ready for? If you can relate to that then you have the basis for this story.

The client had browsed our service options, made her selection, was delivered of her choice of services and was duly invoiced.  A problem then arose.  She decided she no longer valued the services but of course a service is not something that can be returned like a pair of ill-fitting shoes.  She has had her cake and eaten it and now she owes me money for the gateau but refuses to pay.  Ergo, we are in conflict.

The reasons given for non-payment are endless (and ever changing);  the run around we have been given will go down in our client history file as legendary and simply put this is someone who feels that we should have done work for them for free – and of course the world of work does not work like this.

From our company side we have maintained professionalism, have played by the book and in no way have done anything wrong (even though the client feels they got “diddly squat” – charming I know). With this client I have been reasonable, yet the client has been far from so – broken promises, lack of communication, arrogantly expecting our labour for nothing. I know that I am in the right and yet, even with this belief in my moral position, I feel tormented that we are in dispute and on the back foot as I feel my panic rising when I must argue for payment.

According to an HBR article this could be attributed to some stage in my life or career, when I may have got burned by conflict, and felt humiliated or criticized. Due to this, I may choose to accommodate the other party so that I don’t have to feel this way again and this is why I may choose safety, amity, and harmony over the difficult conversation, speaking up or standing my ground.

When the author Amy Jen Su asked her clients why they don’t want to have difficult conversations, she said it usually comes down to fear of experiencing those emotions again, even though their careers and life stages have advanced exponentially since those salad days. “Many have an “a-ha” moment when they realize they’re no longer that younger version of themselves; they’re now a more seasoned, experienced person with new skills and know-how.  As one client recently put it, “I’m still behaving as if I’m that second-year associate who got shouted-down by the senior partner for pushing back. But I’m now the general counsel of this organization.” 

With this in mind I realise that when I think of nice guy Stuart having to handle this, I am a prisoner of my own insecurity and background but when I put my impersonal CEO hat on and play that role I feel immediately able to think more clearer without contaminating my thoughts with what may have happened to me before. I realise that when I avoid conflict it is because I am putting the focus on me and with this narrow perspective I realise that my concern is about how others will perceive me. 

William James said that “whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.”  So I need to remind myself that it is not about me – it’s business, pure and simple!
When I take away my fear, concentrate on what the business needs and put my best CEO hat on I have miraculously removed my worst self from the situation and brought forward my best self.

I am then left to answer such questions as “What would the organisation, clientele or shareholders say about this situation, and what does the business need?  Now I can answer objectively and with clarity.  When I say she owes me money I realise that this is inaccurate and unhelpful because I put the sensitive and defensive me in it instead of the inanimate object – in truth she owes the business money. When I deal with it from a business and professional perspective there is no baggage – just business rules and moral guidelines.  And reneging on a legitimate debt breaches all those rules and ethics.  Lady, I’m not the problem here – you are!

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”


Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”


Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.


Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)


Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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