Krawczak: Don’t lose sight of what you have in common

There are some things that other people do that really irritate me. Like when someone stops their grocery cart in the middle of the aisle, oblivious that there might be people trying to get by. Or when pet owners don’t clean up after their pet in public spaces. I don’t care what they let happen to their own yard, but public spaces, come on. Or when there is no one behind me on the road, and someone pulls out in front of me, only to turn a moment later.

There is something else that bothers me and unfortunately I see it more than I care to. I’m irritated when I observe a controversy where the parties involved seem to have lost sight of the bigger picture.

When there is a conflict (and I’m really talking about conflicts that involved sectors of a community – I don’t pay much attention to others’ personal conflicts), the disagreeing parties often have the same goal – to do what’s best for the community, to advance the cause of whatever they are arguing about, to have a successful event, to do what’s right for their constituents, and so on. The disagreement is really in how to get there. But the big picture, or the common goal, is often forgotten. That is unfortunate because it tends to leave someone stranded.

It is frustrating to me when I see this because many times it is our community that is being neglected in the big picture while the parties argue.

Thankfully, however, there is a solution to this nonsense. When we engage in conflict, there are four possible outcomes. All parties could win (collaboration), one party could win and the other loses (competition/accommodation), both parties could lose (avoidance), or both parties could win and lose (compromise).

The obvious outcome that would be most desirable for all parties would be collaboration – a solution where both parties win, and are satisfied. Unfortunately that doesn’t happen in many controversies.

However, I am happy to report that I was part of a meeting recently where the spirit of collaboration was clearly in the air. Our businesses had some concerns with the Michigan State Police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement activity in the region as of late. We were part of a meeting between the commercial traffic business community and the Michigan State Police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division leadership.

Although at times the meeting got tense, the overall feeling in the room was that everyone kept the bigger picture in mind – to create a safe environment, but in a realistic way that makes sense. No one got selfish and demanded anything. No one placed their individual interests higher than the value of the big picture. The meeting was a long meeting and the first of many conversations about the topic I’m sure. At the end of the meeting, the problem wasn’t fixed but both parties committed to positive steps to begin to correct the issues.

The meeting was refreshing. Accountability was established between the parties and for the most part, people left feeling pretty good.

I know it is hard to believe, but the Chamber butts heads with other organizations from time to time. That is sarcasm of course, everyone butts heads with others sometimes. We have our own mission, which is a very positive mission, as is the mission of every other organization that we work with. However, there are often differences along the path in achieving the missions.

We want good roads, but we disagree on how to pay for them. We want a strong education system, but we disagree on how to improve the system. We want new jobs but we disagree about where to spend our resources to grow them. We all want a strong, healthy community, but it’s in the process where we disagree.

It’s important to remember the bigger picture; the thing we have in common. When we allow ourselves to lose sight of the bigger picture, we give up our ability to do our best. It’s easy to get caught up in the situation and not notice when we lose sight of the bigger picture. Try to always take a step back and examine what you are involved in with a wider lens. You might be surprised to learn what’s being left out and what greater things you could accomplish.

Jackie Krawczak is the executive director of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays. Follow Jackie on Twitter @jkrawczak.