Move towards restorative dialogues and solutions

HDB flats opposite 600 Sin Ming Avenue.
HDB flats opposite 600 Sin Ming Avenue.PHOTO: ST FILE

As a practitioner in conflict resolution, I see many families with strained relationships. Most times, there are shared interests and fundamentally good intentions, but a history of resource constraints, personality clashes and poor communication may result in frail relationships that rock in stormy weather.

The recent issue evolving from the epaysg.com ad and subsequent rap video, reminds me of such family dynamics (Rap video by YouTuber crosses the line, says Shanmugam, July 31).

After all, our social fabric is woven amid the micro dialogues and actions of our daily lives, and what we experience in our spheres of influence shapes our behaviour.

Parties involved in the controversy no doubt care about public opinion and promoting their own interests. I doubt their first intention was to excessively offend sensitivities or cause hurt. Most of us just want to be heard. Regardless, hurt feelings resulted, snowballed and extreme offence was taken.

Elders have been called in to arbitrate and extended family members have started to take sides. As with many disputes when people get worked up, it is not uncommon to see people "cut off their own nose to spite their face".

As a nation, where do we go from here?

I believe there should be dialogue along the lines of shared interests, and ultimately, the restoration of relationships.

An Institute of Policy Studies-OnePeople.sg survey revealed that while Singapore enjoys relatively harmonious racial relationships, minority groups still face discrimination at work (Slight rise in Malays, Indians who feel discriminated at work, July 31). There is always room for improvement in treating one another with respect and kindness.

It is said: "Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves."

I hope we will be quick to put aside the finger-pointing and the recriminations, and move quicker towards active listening, collaborative actions and improving relationships in our respective spheres of influence.

Linda Heng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2019, with the headline 'Move towards restorative dialogues and solutions'. Print Edition | Subscribe