Last week’s terrible school shooting north of Seattle reminded us that conflict in the school or the workplace is a fact of life. In some cases of late, it has been a fact of lifelong pain and suffering. When disagreement escalates in a work or school environment, it takes cool heads to diffuse a potentially deadly situation.
Far from the violence we saw last week, recently one of our teams watched a petty office issue between two employees gather steam until the boiler was about to burst. Just then, the owner of the business overheard the shouting and stepped into the discussion. He asked both parties to join us in his office.
He looked at the men and said, “Guys, what I just saw was unnecessary and unprofessional. It could ruin one of your careers, and I like both of you, so please let me share a story while you guys cool down a bit.” He gave them bottled water from his office fridge, handing both bottles to the man closest to him, to force him to offer the remaining bottle to his co-worker.
The employees looked at the boss, but not at each other, as he began to tell his story.
“When I was a young boy, I went home to my grandfather, crying. I told him that I had lost my best friend over a game of marbles. Three other boys played in the game besides me, and another of them won the game. My best friend lashed out at the winner, a boy we hardly knew, and accused him of cheating. There was a fight and I put himself between my friend and the other boys to protect the winner because he’d done nothing wrong. Now I had a shiner from where my best pal had punched me in the eye. I didn’t hit him back because he was my friend, but by the time I arrived at my grandfather’s house, I regretted that decision and wanted revenge.
My grandfather said, ‘Before you go do that, let me tell you the story of the two wolves.’
He continued, ‘You see, son, there is a constant battle between two wolves inside us all. One wolf is evil. It is consumed by anger, jealousy, greed, and resentment. The other wolf is good. It represents joy, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and bravery.’
“I had to think about that a bit,” the owner said. Then he sat quietly. The silence was deafening. Finally one of the two men who had been arguing spoke up.
“Which wolf wins?” he asked the owner.
The old man quietly replied, “The one you feed.”