Author offers tips on handling conflict
By CINDY BEAMON
Albemarle Life Editor
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
"All Types of Conflict Can be Resolved"
by Hezekiah Brown
as told by Shannon Baylor-Henderson
Hezekiah Brown has spent a lifetime helping people resolve conflicts.
In his 45-year career, Brown was chief mediator in New York under Gov. Mario Cuomo.
He led corporate workshops on improving employee-management relations for Cornell University.
He also served on a task force appointed by U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich under former President Bill Clinton to examine ways to improve labor-management relations within state and local government.
Brown, now a retiree living in Elizabeth City, has written a book he hopes will encourage more people to seek peaceful resolutions to everyday conflicts.
Family and friends encouraged Brown to write a book about his life, but Brown had a different idea. He said people can find out what they want to know about him online, including his service as a member on the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County Community Relations Commission and member of the Board of Visitors at Elizabeth City University.
He wanted to write something he knew would benefit other people. His newly released book "All Types of Conflict Can be Resolved" contains lessons that many people are never taught, said Brown.
People face all types of conflict, involving road rage, bullying, gun violence, religion, racism and broken relationships, and they need ways to deal with their problems, he said.
"This book is relevant in today's society because there is an inordinate amount of physical and psychological violence permeating our society without any focus on how to address the issues by the government or other institutions," Brown wrote in his book summary.
Work needs to begin early with children to give them tools to resolve conflicts before they escalate to bigger problems, he said. Money spent on metal detectors and cameras at schools do not solve problems with crime and drugs at school. People will just learn to outwit the system. Teaching children how to deal with conflict in healthier ways would yield bigger results, he said.
Brown has used strategies from the book in his personal as well as professional life. Growing up in poverty, Brown noticed he had a "God-given gift" to get along with opposing gang members in his old Alabama neighborhood. He was a high school dropout and one of 11 children from a broken home, but the family pulled together and remains strong despite those early difficulties, he said.
In his private and professional relationships, Brown searched for solutions rather than taking sides during a conflict. He also learned to listen without getting angry.
He began talking over problems early in his marriage of 57 years to his wife Zelma Christine. When he noticed tension, Brown said he set a date with his wife to figure out how to resolve the problem. In the meantime, they both thought about the best way to solve their differences. They had their conversation in a nice restaurant where they would talk softly to work out a solution.
His family also took turns discussing issues at the dinner table. No one was allowed to interrupt when it was someone else's turn to talk, he noted.
"You can't resolve anything without having a conversation with people," said Brown.
Many marriage and families split apart because they never really learned how to talk about their differences, he said. When financial problems arise or child-rearing gets difficult, married couples do not have the tools they need to fix what's broken, he said. Instead, the relationship spirals downward to finger-pointing and boiling emotion.
In the work world, Brown led corporate workshops designed to get employees talking to one another and their bosses. He remembered one woman who said she had not talked to a co-worker in 13 years. She could not recall what had started the feud.
Many problems in the workplace arise because co-workers fail to understand one another, he said.
"People don't like each other because they don't know each other," he said.
Brown said the book goes through steps a person can take to become a problem solver. They include: examining your own emotions/thoughts; trying to understand how the other person feels/thinks; and listen more than talk.
"Remember the one that talks the loudest is seldom heard," he said.
"All Types of Conflict Can be Resolved" is self-published through Xlibris Publishing and available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.