Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Conflict like Nam Pla

I was reminded today of a situation where someone had lost their cool in a meeting I was in. They were upset in case they had "Blown it."

They couldn't have been further from the truth. I explained that often conflict, or differences in opinion are like Nam Pla, or Fish sauce as it is better known.

Those of you who enjoy Thai cooking will be familiar with Nam Pla. It is made from steeping, or brewing, dead fish. It is utterly rank with one of the most offensive smells to come out of a bottle. But when it is added with other ingredients to make the dish, then it imparts this wonderfully evocative depth of flavour.

Very often, if we try to pass through a dispute without addressing the conflict then we only get part of the picture. We are trying to resolve matters at the levels where both parties feel comfortable. However, if we can make it safe to communicate our or their strongest grievances then we add so much flavour and understanding to the process.

Fish sauce on its own is rancid. But handled carefully, and added to the recipe at the right time and without allowing it to overpower the dish, then you get the full flavour. To leave it out altogether would only result in a tasteless compromise and deny all of the participants within the meal a full appreciation of what could have been.

1 comment:

Alexander Massey said...

I think in American corporate circles, this is calling talk about the 'dead moose' on the boardroom table ...