Chad Ford: Conflict—Something to Fear or Embrace?
As human beings we tend to view conflict as something to fear or avoid, but what if we viewed conflict as an opportunity to love? Chad Ford has devoted a large portion of his life to what he calls his “true passion”: peace building and conflict resolution. On this week’s episode, Ford teaches us how our approach to conflict—specifically our willingness to “turn first”—can make all the difference.
Instead of judging and condemning and fighting and all of the things that we engage in, we would show an increase of love. We would choose love over fear.
Chad's Book: Dangerous Love
The study about stress mentioned in the episode: "People's perception of the effect of stress on their health is linked to risk of heart attacks"
Article by Deseret News: "ESPN NBA draft expert Chad Ford is also a BYU-Hawaii professor"
Website: Chad Ford's NBA Big Board
2:09- Backing into Sports
4:49- True Passion
9:01- Where Conflict Resolution Starts
14:11- Turning First
18:38- Dangerous Love—The Love that Endures
24:08- Pointing Blame
28:12- Perception of Stress/Perception of Conflict
35:25- “Am I Right With This Person?”
40:02- A Son’s Blessing
45:37- What Does It Mean To Be “All In” the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Morgan Jones 0:00
We avoid conflict in our lives at all costs. We are terrified of it because we believe we are terrible at it. But seeking to transform our conflicts is what Chad Ford calls Dangerous Love. And it's something that can create stronger and happier relationships. So what is the key to transforming conflict – making it a positive rather than a negative? Ford says that as the Book of Mormon teaches, "It is by small and simple things that great things are brought to pass." And in this case, it all starts with turning first. Chad Ford has been living five lives simultaneously for nearly 20 years. He's been an international conflict mediator, a college professor, a senior consultant and facilitator for the Arbinger Institute, an executive board member for peace players, a writer, analyst and entrepreneur covering the NBA and NBA Draft for ESPN. While his name is most likely recognized for his work at ESPN, being a basketball analyst and writer was actually Ford's side gig for most of the last two decades. Chad's peace building work is what defines him. He holds a master's degree in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason and a juris doctorate degree from Georgetown. His new book, Dangerous Love weaves Ford's experiences from those five lives into a deeply personal exploration of how we transform fear and conflict. This is All In, an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, what does it really mean to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm Morgan Jones, and I am so excited to have Chad Ford on the line with me today, Chad, welcome.
Chad Ford 1:53
Thanks for having me on the show.
Morgan Jones 1:55
Well, I have been so looking forward to this. Honestly, as a sports fan, I've read a good amount about you and your background prior to ever learning about the book that we're going to talk about today. So first of all, my question for you is, how did you get into to the sports realm? That's a hard, hard field to break into, I feel like.
Chad Ford 2:20
Yeah, you know, I backed into it, actually. I went to BYU before my mission and then BYU Hawaii after my mission studying film at BYU, and then History, actually, at BYU Hawaii. And then I went off to law school. And I was really interested in human rights, conflict resolution mediation, started doing a joint degree in law and conflict resolution, and was just having a hard time making ends meet and trying to figure out how to hold down a job, while doing all that raising a young family. And so I started a website with a friend of mine, Jason Peery, who is also – he was in the MBA program at BYU at the time, and it just took off. It took several months, but it just absolutely exploded. This was back in 1996. So I'm dating myself a little bit, it was called SportsTalk.com. And in 2001, ESPN came along, right as I was graduating and doing all of that and offered to buy our site for it to become ESPN Insider. At the time, I went over into that transition and went into ESPN to start helping them develop what was really our first attempt at a subscription model for sports journalism and sports reporting. And, and really was sort of running it as an editor. And about six months into that when we were struggling to get subscribers I started writing and doing work on the side as well, that's what I originally did with it. And before long I was on Sports Center, and within a few months I was covering the NBA for ESPN, and then in 2005 I decided that while I loved what I did, and it was a dream – I mean getting to meet Michael Jordan and being able to cover LeBron James in high school and you know all those amazing things was great. But I really had this passion for doing peacebuilding work and conflict work and I just knew that I wasn't gonna be happy until I got back to that. And so BYU Hawaii had just opened the job up for a new center called the Mckay Center for Intercultural Understanding. I applied for the job and got it and left ESPN full time in 2005. But then giving the differences in schedules – and I had a contract with ESPN at the time – I started covering just the NBA draft and then I did that for the next decade, covering the NBA Draft for ESPN while still serving as a peacebuilding professor at BYU Hawaii.
Morgan Jones 4:49
I think it's so cool because really, I think a lot of people – especially people that love sports – it's like wow, that really is a dream job and the fact that you gave it up for something that is your true passion, I think is so cool. So why do you – why would you say that conflict resolution is your passion? And does your faith play any role in your interest in that?
Chad Ford 5:13
I mean, for me anymore, it plays everything. It didn't start that way. I, you know, in high school, I grew up in a really racially divided community in Kansas City, Missouri. And I just started to notice a lot of the tensions and divisions that were there in the United States at the time, and that was the start of a really big interest that I had, in "What does this sort of look like? And what can I do to make a difference?" And the answer was – I, I had no idea. I had no clue what to do. And so I started becoming really interested in college and started to, in all of my classes, be really interested in social conflict and what caused war, what caused conflict. And you know, part of that too is reading the Book of Mormon. And, and, and understanding – because the Book of Mormon is filled with conflict, I mean, it's a dominant sort of narrative there – and what's going on here, and what sort of messages are coming out of that. I had a really great mentor, BYU Hawaii, Grant Underwood, who was a religion professor – who's now at BYU – did a lot of work with the Joseph Smith Papers and what have you, and just he kept giving me more and more resources into LDS thoughts on this sort of issue, what have you, and, and then it was actually my junior or my senior year of college, Neal A. Maxwell, who was a member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles at the time came to our campus and he told us the origin story of BYU Hawaii, which I had never heard, about a young David O. McKay at the age of 30-34 years old, taking a trip around the world at the end of World War One to check in and all the areas of the Church, and him being really inspired by both the resiliency of the Saints in countries throughout the world, but also being devastated by the destruction that he saw, and having a vision when he came to Hawaii in 1921, that he needed to build a school and bring people from all over the world to the school to learn peace and to learn how to live together. And as a student – I hate to admit it, but I didn't, I didn't know that – I had no idea why the college was in Hawaii. And I didn't know that it took him 34 years to convince everyone that the idea was a good idea, and it wasn't until he was the President of the Church in 1955, that he began to actually build this incredible school. And that he, he said in the dedication that from the school would go men and women who would be influences towards the establishment of peace internationally. And just something struck me. I was just a student in the audience at the Cannon Activity Center at the time. And something just really struck me that I wanted to know more about that. I felt it in like a really powerful and deeply spiritual way. And I began to research him and, and what his vision was for the university and how he saw conflict, resolution, and peace. And I went to my professors and said, "This is what I want to do." And so, you know, I went and began studying this in graduate school, and doing Human Rights Law, and then sort of thinking about even deeper areas of conflict resolution. And the more that I got into it, the more that I just felt like, "I love this. It's impactful. And as I think about my life, and discipleship and everything else, like this seems like a way I'm going to be able to use my gifts and my talents to be able to sort of be helpful in the world."
Morgan Jones 8:44
Yeah. So this has remained something that's very important to BYU Hawaii, and something that you're actually involved with in your career now. I want to kind of delve into some of the concepts that are in your book, and I imagine are some of the things that you teach. In the book you write, "In a time when communities are becoming more divided, the world needs more people who will choose love over fear in the face of conflict. People who give hope in a time of hopelessness, people who will be influences for peace when anger and anxiety reign." I think this is something when I read it in the book, I thought, "Well, that's relatable. " But I think we become overwhelmed because we don't even know where to start. And so we kind of shut down. But where would you say – if somebody is interested in in conflict resolution and this peace building, where do you start?
Chad Ford 9:41
Well, it starts with ourselves, right? And actually, I didn't write the book for conflict resolution professionals or for if you're going to study this as a career. I actually wrote it because so many people came to me and saying, "Hey, can you mediate my conflict with my dad,” or “I've got this this issue with my kids” or, you know, “We've got this problem in the community." And you know, one of the things that I've learned as that conflict mediator and as a professor, is that we carry with us this overwhelming fear of conflict on one hand, and we sort of lack the tools to know what to do with it on the other hand, and that actually escalates the fears, right? It's bad enough to be scared of something. But we're even more scared of it when we don't really feel like we're confident that we can get out of it, right? That it's not going to get out of control. And, you know, so much of our approach to conflict is either avoidance, we just try to get away from it if we can, and pretend it's not there – or it's accommodation, we sort of roll over and sort of, just let it happen to us and, and keep our mouths shut and say, you know, “At least I'm being peaceful, because I'm not contributing to the conflict.” But we're watching things happen around us all the time that we don't agree with or that, you know, go against our beliefs or our values. Or we go into the fight mode, right? And we say, "Okay, I'm under duress, I need to protect myself, I need to protect my family, I need to protect my community, I need to protect my faith. And, and I'm going to pick up a sword, and I'm going to go to battle." And and, I'm not talking literally about a sword in many ways, but you know, “I'm going to go into competitive, contentious conflict with this person, I'm going to try to win it.” And whenever we take any of those approaches, we're likely to fail. And it reinforces our belief that conflict is unsolvable, that it's going to be too difficult to get past, that "You don't understand my dad," or "You don't understand, you know, my co-worker, like, you'll never be able to get a solution with a person like this." And certainly, as it gets to our day and time where we see so much political polarization happening in the world today, this intense belief of so many people, "I can't work with these people. I can't get along with these people. I can't live with these people." I mean, I've even seen on social media to the point that, "I am unfriending, anybody who supports –" you know, fill in the blank on the other side, and "Even though I might be your neighbor, even though I might know your family well, even though we might be in the same ward, I just, I can't, I can't be connected to you anymore." And you know, when that happens, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, right? When I disconnect in that way, I create the conditions on the ground for the conflict to get worse that I most fear. And so really, so much of my work is about helping people both overcome their fear of conflict, overcome their fear of the person that they're in conflict with, get the courage to turn first or to turn towards the people that they're in conflict with and try to seek collaborative solutions. And then some tools that any of us can use – you don't have to be a mediator or a conflict professional to actually invite and create space for that other person to also turn back. And to see my humanity just like I'm seeing theirs. And I hate to get – narrow everything down into like a little four step process, but that process really works. Each of those steps are challenging and hard and have their own complexities, but I've seen it happen over and over again in families – I've seen it in in organizations and communities. And I've been working a lot of my life in the Middle East with Palestinians and Israelis, in conflicts that most people think there's no solution to these conflicts whatsoever. And I have seen Israelis and Palestinians turn. I've seen people that that other people would label as "terrorists" turn, change their way of seeing each other and the world, and come up with collaborative solutions to problems. And so I'm, I'm one of those rare people like I'm hopeful we can do this. We actually have the capabilities to do it. And my faith deeply informs a lot of that, right? A lot of those ideas and tools are contained in scripture, and a lot of them can be used both for people that are religious, but also for people that are non–religious, the book itself wasn't meant for an LDS audience or for any religious audience in particular. But certainly people that come from a religious background, I think we’ll be able to recognize the connections and parallels between some of these tools and things that they're taught in their own faith.
Morgan Jones 14:11
Yeah, you've mentioned the word "turn" several times, and you open the book by discussing this idea of "turning first." Can you tell listeners before we get any further into this, what that idea of turning means?
Chad Ford 14:26
Usually, what I'll do if I was in a classroom with you is I would bring up to students in front of the class, I'd have them stand back to back with each other, and then I'd have them elbow each other, right? And then I would ask you, "What's going on? "And most people get this pretty quickly if they know what we're talking about, "Oh, they're in conflict with each other. " "Well, what do you notice?" "Well, they, they don't see each other,” but they can certainly feel each other, right? They’re back to back, they're elbowing each other but they don't see each other. And when I say, “Not see each other,” it's not, it's not the physical "see." It's the fact that, "I don't see you as a person whose needs, wants, and desires matter the same as my own. Yours are either less important or maybe more important or what have you, but I just don't see you at that level." And so then I will ask people, "How do you get out of the conflict, then? Neither of you see each other, you're both elbowing, what do you do?" Well the answer – the truth is – actually the answer for most of us – we don't do anything, we just complain about it, right? We go to, we go to our friends and neighbors and say how awful it is that we get elbowed all the time. You know, that's what we do about it. But then when people try to do something about it, it's really interesting – 90% of the time, what the person is going to do is they're going to move and try to get in front of the other person, right? "I'm going to try to get in front of it. So we're face to face. So I'm going to move around and get in front of you." And when I'm doing it with them back to back, I just do a simple thing, I just move away. And then they get frustrated. And then they'll chase me around in a circle, and finally get really frustrated, they'll grab me and try to hold me so that I am facing them face to face, in which case, I'll just close my eyes. And occasionally someone's brave enough to try to pry my eyes open. But you know, good luck with that. And we'll, we'll stop and we'll ask, "Okay, you know what, what happened there? You know, you took the initiative, right? To make the conflict better. That's a huge start." But what they're really doing is trying to get in front of the other person and making you see me. “I need you to see my point of view, I need you to see how – what I believe and why it is important.” "I need you to validate that. I need you to tell me, right? That I'm right. And once we do that our conflict is solved." But notice how we've externalized the conflict, the conflict changes when someone else changes. When someone else changes the way that they see us or their attitude towards each other. And so I say the problem with that is, it's really hard to force other people to change. It's really hard to force other people to see us, and this little exercise sort of demonstrates it, right? I mean, they're at the point where they're trying to pry my eyes open. And you just know that's not sustainable. So we go back, back to back, we start elbowing each other again and I say try again. And it's amazing how a lot of people on just the second try will get it. They'll just turn around, and they'll face my back and they'll be looking at my back, I won't be looking at them, right? But there'll be looking at me. And I'll ask people, "What's happening?" "Well, they're looking at you." "Okay," right? And then something really cool happens at that moment. This happens to me every time. If I'm the person that's having someone stare at my back, there is this instinctual desire to turn my head around and see what's going on with this person. Like, "Why is there no elbowing anymore? What's going on? Where did they go, right? I want to start to turn." And instinctually, I start to want to do that. And so the move when I say "turn first” – what I say is that we turn towards the person that we're in conflict with that we disagree with, we try our best to see their humanity, to see their dreams and desires, what makes them believe the things that they believe, we don't have to agree with it. We don't have to subscribe to the same beliefs, whether they're religious or social or political or whatever. But I want to understand that. I want to understand you and what makes you – you, and why that's so important to you. And, and I'm not going to demonize you, I'm not going to mistreat you, I'm not going to justify misbehavior towards you, I'm just going to see you. And what's so powerful about that move, is it becomes a massive catalyst for the other person to turn to do the exact same thing back towards us. But when we demand it of others first, right? When we demand that they turn first in the conflict and see us it's likely going to be they're going to say “No,” they're going to resist, and then we can blame them for not doing it and then it just goes on and on.
Morgan Jones 18:38
Yeah, you wrote in the book, "The second we begin blaming, we have handed over our whole reality to someone else." So I guess before I transition into this idea of blame, the idea of turning feels like a really small thing. And you open your book with a scripture that will sound familiar to those listening to this podcast, where it talks about "By small and simple things, great things are brought to pass." And you said, "This is my favorite scripture in the Book of Mormon, because it is deeply connected to what it takes to do sustainable peace building." What is the connection between this scripture? And I guess I just said it, the, the turning feels like a small and simple thing, but how do those small and simple things bring great things to pass?
Chad Ford 19:27
I think we become overwhelmed with conflict, and it seems too big for us. And "Where do I begin?" And "Nothing is going to be enough." And maybe it's been going on for so long, or it's so hard or in the case of social or political conflict, there's so many people involved. "How can anything that I do really make a difference?" And it's a question I get all the time when I'm doing workshops, when I'm doing seminars, I'm doing speeches, everybody says, "This is great. I get it. I totally believe it. But now let me tell you about a situation where I know it won't work." And you know, sometimes it's a home one, sometimes it's a work one, sometimes it's a political one. And, "I'm convinced that this stuff that you're talking about is not of significant magnitude that it's going to change everything." And my response is, is twofold. One is, the bigger the conflict, you're right, the longer it will take, right? And the more effort and work that it will take to do so. That – I 100% agree with that. Nothing magically turns, you know, overnight, and the deeper and longer the conflict goes on, the harder that is. But everything starts with the turn. And nothing starts without it. And so what's so magical about starting to see the humanity of the person that I'm, I'm in conflict with about asking them “Why” questions about trying to understand what they need, and how I might be able to contribute to giving them what they need, is that it has this powerful effect over human beings. And these simple questions about why simple curiosity, simple love towards others – and I, and I define love in the book. And I think this is, you know, because a lot of people are like, "Love, really? You're going to tell me love is going to change the world? Like "All we need is love" right? This is a Beatles song, or, you know, this – these are hippies holding hands." And, and I'm like, you know, first of all, from a faith perspective, love is the power that creates the universe that is at the catalyst of the Atonement, that literally changes our world. But it's not romantic love. It's not the sort of love that we hear in rock songs, or, you know, in movies. And it's not even the love that means "like," in that, "I have to like you or agree with you or we have to be best friends, or that we have to have everything in common with each other." It's not like love in that "I love chocolate," or "I love pizza," or "I love my roommate" or what have you. It's the love that says that your needs and wants and desires matter to me as much as my own. That, that I hold you sacred because you're another human being. And because of that I'm committed to a relationship that is both beneficial to you and to me, right? That I'm here to help you along your life journeys, that we're in this together. And that any solution to an issue in our family, or solution into our community or to our country should be inclusive, it should invite and bring as many people as possible into that solution, to try to find a way forward. And that sort of love –by the way is hard. It's way harder than romantic love. It's way harder than the "like" sort of love because that's easy love. And it comes to us easy. And it's great when we have it.
Morgan Jones 22:41
Well you certainly don't "fall into" that kind of love.
Chad Ford 22:44
You won't fall into it. Exactly. Right? It takes intentionality. It takes sacrifice sometimes. And one thing that I find is so interesting though, is it's the one sort of love that's sustainable. Because the interesting thing about romantic love is that that's pretty hard to keep that spark going forever. Or the "like" love is great until our roommate does something that annoys us, or until someone cuts us off on the road or does something that we disagree with. And then you just watch it fall away. And then we feel justified in now hate. Or justified in mistreating someone else because they've broken the easy love pact. But, but “Dangerous Love" is the sort of love that needs to exist and endure, even when the other person isn't seeing me as a person. Even when the other person isn't turning first, even when we deeply disagree on things. That is the sort of love that endures. And that is the thing that I think is – people feel like it's impossible to feel that sort of love when I'm deeply enmeshed in conflict. And you know, I always think about this scripture that, "Perfect love casteth out all fear." And that – what is happening so often is that our fear is, is hiding the role that love can play in helping transcend our conflict.
Morgan Jones 24:07
Yeah. Coming back to this idea of blame, I want to touch on a few of the principles that you've mentioned so far. So you said the second we begin blaming we have handed over our whole reality to someone else. Chad, how do we avoid blame in conflict? Because I think that's really hard.
Chad Ford 24:26
Yeah, well, first of all, I think it's that we have to understand a little bit about our brain and how our brain works. And a lot of times when I'm working with clients, we have little, little brain exercises that we do. And one of the things that I like to show it's not actually in the book, because I couldn't get the rights to it. But I'll show a picture of a brain scan. And it's a sort of computer rendition of a brain scan. I'll actually show the neural pathways, right, that are happening in our brain. And you'll see that there are some thick lines and some thin lines and some colors and what have you on it. And I, and I actually tell people, "This is a brain on fear." And you'll notice there's a few thick lines and, and how the how the brain is sort of operating in certain places and not in others, what have you. And then I have another brain scan. And this is one of a yogi that's meditating and in sort of perfect – sort of peace. They're feeling, they're feeling a ton of peace in the moment. And the brain scan lights up, it's it's beautiful. There's lines and colors everywhere, the lines are thick or whatever. And you compare the two brains to say. "What's happening?" Fear sort of shuts down our brain. And it's like tunnel vision, we can only see certain things when we're operating under fear. And one of the things that it blinds us to is ourselves and our own contributions. The conflict, we call this self–deception, which is a problem of having a problem, not knowing I have a problem and resisting any suggestion that I have a problem. And interestingly, one of the real pioneers in this sort of work has been Terry Warner, an LDS scholar who worked at BYU for years and founded the Arbinger Institute. And, you know, Warner, his work has been deeply influential to me, because it shows us that when we're experiencing that fear, or that pressure, right? We become blind to the reality all around us. And we only see specific things, right? And so if I'm not seeing you, as a person, and I'm feeling fear with you, Morgan, I'll start to only see your flaws. I'll only sort of notice the things that you do wrong, or that are annoying to me, or that I disagree with and then that becomes my representation of you. And then because that becomes my representation of you, the only solution to actually improve our relationship is for you to change. To quit doing all those annoying or ridiculous things or give up the beliefs that I know that you shouldn't have. And when you do so – everything will be better. Of course, we all know how human beings react to blame, right? We get defensive when other people are blaming us or when other people are criticizing us, or being condescending towards us, or pointing out our flaws, our weaknesses – our natural reaction is to get defensive, and then our tunnels get narrow. And we start pointing out the flaws of the other person. And here you go. And so both people say they want the conflict to change, but either – both people point the finger at each other and say, "And it will change when the other person is there." And so what happens is we give control of our reality to someone else. We actually say that, "I can't feel peace, I can't feel happiness, I can't feel love. I can't do anything until you change. And because you won't change, I am stuck in this pattern of misery, of conflict," or whatever, it's very weak, it's very indulgent in a certain way? And it, it feels like there's nothing I can do. But if I can let go of blame, if I can look at my patterns, and how I contribute to the conflict, and let go of that, then I can start to become productive in "What sort of things could I interject into our little conflict dynamic, that could actually be helpful, and help turn this in a different direction?" But as long as I'm blaming, I'm not going to do that. I'm just going to sit back and wait for everybody else to do it for me.
Morgan Jones 28:12
Yeah, one of the things that I love that you talk about is a study that was done in 2013, and it was based on the research of 7,000 workers in London. And it found that the more negative people's perceptions were about stress, the more likely they were to have a heart attack. If people reported that their health was heavily affected by stress, they doubled the chances of having a heart attack in comparison to those that saw stress as a positive motivator. And you wrote in the book, "Stress, as it turns out, doesn't necessarily kill us. But perceiving stress negatively does." I thought this was so fascinating, and I can totally see it being true. But you say the same is true of conflict. So I think it's – if I'm understanding what you teach in the book clearly – it's all about our perspective of the stress. So how can we shift our perspective to view conflict as a positive?
Chad Ford 29:12
Yeah, that's, that's actually a really great summary, by the way, well done, Morgan.
Morgan Jones 29:17
My book report, you're welcome.
Chad Ford 29:19
The professor in me wants to like give you a nice note. That's, that's a really great summary of it. And so we have that same sort of thing. So many people perceive conflict as a negative, as something that's going to destroy me or my relationship or my family. And so I engage in it in all the wrong ways. And then when I engage in it all the wrong ways, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It actually turns out to be destructive, because I'm doing it wrong. But if you can start to view conflict, as an opportunity for us to grow closer together, to understand each other more deeply, to engage in collaborative problem solving, because typically conflict centers around a problem. There's something that we can't solve together. Which is why we're experiencing conflict in the first place, we can actually make our families, our relationships, our organizations, our country, better, right? Conflict can actually show us where the fault lines are in our relationship or where we're missing something or where someone's needs are not being met, or received, and it becomes an opportunity. And we talk about in the book, "The Smog View," which is a very sort of self-defeating view versus the "Cocoon View," which is that you know what, this Caterpillar is going to like to eat leaves or whatever, but it goes into the cocoon, and it literally changes into a butterfly. And even though the cocoon process – I would, I would suspect is probably a pretty scary process for the caterpillar, it's dark, it's tight, the caterpillar kind of liquefies. If you've ever looked at a butterfly, it's not just like a caterpillar with wings. It's like, it's like something else. So. So it's not that it's easy, right? But that it can lead to sort of really powerful changes, and, and results that can actually be helpful. So when conflict comes my way, instead of going, "Oh, my gosh, not conflict again, I've got to run away." “What can this teach us about a relationship? What is it that's not working well in our relationship? And how do we use this opportunity to understand each other better? And to make it better?” And, you know, I hear so many people come to me and say, "That's, that's exactly right. That's, that's how I want to view it, but every time it comes up, my heart starts beating fast, and I start sweating, I revert back to this." And, and so we, you know, we talk in the book and have some exercises that really are around thinking about, first of all, if I do it from my “Smog” perspective, all the negative things that are probably likely to happen – which we don't want, right? So we're not going to go back and do the same things that we know don't work. And then it's again, about taking small little steps about things that do work, right? And so one thing that I think about all the time when I'm having a conflict with my – I have a 16 year old daughter – and you know, as a dad, we, we sometimes bump heads. The first thing I try to think about when I'm feeling annoyed, or I'm starting to feel my blood boiling a little bit, or I, you know, I feel that conflict going is you know, what do I love about my daughter? Right? What is it that I really love? I first gotta get that grounded, right? What is it about this human being that I connect with? And I know for daughters, it's probably not that hard to go and find stuff, and it might be harder with a neighbor, or it might be harder from someone from an opposing political party or whatever. But I put in the work, right? To start to think about, "What is it about this person that I respect or care for” or what have you. And sometimes I have to look for that. And I have to be very intentional about it. And then what – my second thing is, “What ways might I be misunderstanding, right now? In what ways may I not be actually hearing her correctly? Or understanding the way that she's communicating right now? And what sort of assumptions might I be making about her body language? Or the tone that she took with me in that text message?” Or, or what have you, and, “Do I really know that that's what she thinks and believes? Or, or is it possible that I might just be misunderstanding?” To be humble in our truth – as I say – is a, is a really important way of helping go over our conflict. Don't be so sure that you know what the other person is thinking or what motivates them, or why they said or did things that's so annoying to you now. Open up space, ask "Why" questions, get super curious with them. "Oh, you seem really upset with me right now. Help me understand – what's going on today? What's, what's happening right now?" And by the way, I found a lot of times, it comes out towards me but it's – has nothing to do with me. It's something that happened at school or with a teacher, with a friend or a boyfriend that she's not getting along with right now, or you know, what have you, and I'm taking offense over something that shouldn't – I shouldn't even be taking offense over. And occasionally, yeah, she's trying to dig me. She's upset with me. And she is trying to you know, dig me. But even in those moments, will it be helpful to what I – going forward, to snap back, to attack back, to fight fire with fire? You know, the cover of the book Dangerous Love has this blue arrow and this red arrow like coming out each other, and I know most people won't get the symbolism, but for me, we think about fire and concept of being fire. And how do you put out fire? We use water to put out fire, right? But most of the time in conflict, our approaches, they run away from the fire and hope the fire puts out itself or to bring more fire back and try to fight fire with fire – never works. Never works. Just increases the size of the fire. And we have to learn how to respond to fire with water. And it takes practice. And you know, again, for someone who's of faith, one of the things that I find – and especially my morning prayers – as I asked for help with this, I ask for help with seeing people clearly. Being able to just sort of discern like their spirit and their understanding so that I don't jump to that. And then I have the courage to not just respond sometimes to those natural instincts of, you know, getting angry or jumping at something, but the courage to respond with generosity, with kindness, with understanding. And as cliche as some of this sounds. I've worked in some of the most hairy conflicts in the world – it works. It works in powerful ways.
Morgan Jones 35:23
Yeah. I love that you brought up the example of your daughter, because I think that there are times – obviously, right? – Where as a parent, you are right. And you ask a question in the book, you say, "Do you want to be right? Or do you want peace?" So my question for you is there obviously times where our conviction of what is right – and it kind of goes back to what you were just saying, being humble in your truth – but how do we determine, you know, when we stand our ground, or when peace is the priority?
Chad Ford 35:57
Yeah. Well, if you think about this, and I want to think about this, because of our audience –meaning uniquely LDS perspective – for a minute. What's, what's eternal in our faith? It's relationships. One of the unique factors in our faith is this idea of being sealed and being sealed for eternity and the power of human relationships, and what it means, what it means to us. It's something that I deeply love about our faith, and how we sort of think about our relationships, both before this world began, what they're like here and what they'll be on into the eternities. And that I can often get caught up in a, in a principle, and I'm technically right in, but be very wrong in my relationship towards another person. I can be right, but be wrong in being right. You know, for example, when you're going through the New Testament and Jesus is often squaring with the Pharisees, the complaints that the Pharisees have towards the sinner's typically are technically right. When they take the young woman caught in adultery and throw her toward – to the feet of Jesus, they're technically right with the law that she has sinned, that she has committed this, but Jesus is also seeing the humanity of the person that's on the ground. That He sees the principle but He also sees the humanity and is deeply and always concerned with being deeply right – there. And so I think that one, one thing that can be really helpful, is it's okay to have beliefs and to feel right about things. But my priority, my number one is, "Am I right with the person that I'm with?" Because teaching and communicating or even correcting – which we have to do some times as parents, as bosses, you know, as leaders within organizations – there are times for those, but they always go better, they are always more powerful and influential when I – my relationship is right with the person. When people know that I deeply care about them, that I've taken the time and effort to understand them. To listen and learn, to build relationships with them. In those moments where I have to offer teaching or correction or what have you, it lands differently than when my relationship is not right with them. And also, I'll only choose to teach and communicate out of a sense of true care and compassion and love for the person, as opposed to condemnation or judgment, or any of the sort of other – other sort of motivations, which I might, I might want to engage in those sort of behaviors. And so to me, it's always asking the question before I say or do anything else, "Am I right with this person? Do I love them? Do I care for them? Do I see them, deeply, right now? And do they know it? And have they felt it? Has it been shown in my words and my actions?" And if the answer is, "I feel it, but they don't see it,” or “I don't feel it," either one of those, then my first reaction should be to work on that relationship and build that relationship first. And when I do that, then interestingly, many times the problem takes care of itself. Just on its own at that moment. But in those cases, when it doesn't, then I actually think there's space to be invitational to other people to be, be helpful through that. And so that, you know, my advice to parents, my advice to leaders, is a really simple one. Make sure that of all the things that I'm right about that my biggest priority is that I'm right in my relationship with this person. That I see them the way that their Heavenly Parents might see them, for example. That I see them the way – if I need to, the way their mother might see them or, you know, their biggest advocate or friend – and I see them that way first, and then let my actions be dictated from there. As opposed to that other breakdown.
Morgan Jones 39:59
Yeah. That makes so much sense. Chad, you conclude the book with a story about your giving your father a priesthood blessing when he was on his deathbed, can you tell listeners about that, and what it taught you about choosing love over fear?
Chad Ford 40:16
Yeah, it's a really sacred story for me. I went back and forth actually about was I going to include it in the book because of how tender it was, for me. I've been in a conflict with my father for a number of years. That was – it was very harsh. And, and I was, I was equally to blame for much of it. And it took me a very dramatic episode for me to really come out of it and begin to really see his humanity – and turn first – and to do everything that I talked about in the book. And I'll be honest with our listeners, and by the way, that was a conflict while I was learning this stuff. And so you know, just having all this information certainly hasn't made my life perfect, or mean that I've always made the right choices. And the story with my father is you know, an example of this and partly why I tell it. But I end the book with an experience that happened after we reconciled about a year later, my father had caught – had gotten pneumonia. And given a number of other physical disabilities that he'd had and health issues, he had asked for there not be treatment on him, and I'm not sure the doctors could have treated him anyway. And so as I rushed to his bedside, I was worried that I wasn't going to make it. That the doctors were pretty convinced that he was going to pass away, you know – shortly. His lungs had filled with fluid, but I got there and he was, he was still alive. And he sort of came out of a deep sleep. And, you know, we told each other that we'd loved him. And then something amazing happened, he didn't pass away. He stayed hanging on. He was gasping for breath – gurgling for breath – it seemed like the most painful and torturous existence. And the doctors couldn't understand it. And you know, you know, we couldn't really understand it either. And there's a lot of family in the room, and we were there so long, a lot of family cleared out. It was just me and my father again, he came out of his sleep and I asked him, "Dad, what's going on?" You know, "You've been suffering and in so much pain for a long time, you've, you've almost looked forward for this day, you know, for a while, what's going on? Why are you hanging on?" And my father said that he was afraid. And I asked him, you know, "Dad, you've been a man of faith, your whole life, what are you afraid of?" He started to list all of his mistakes that he had made in his life and all the times that he felt like he had disappointed family or God, and he was talking to them, you could – you can hear this sense of shame in his voice. And by the way, all things that he had repented of. All things that he'd cleared up in his life, but still holding on to those and he said, "I'm afraid when I get to the other side, God's not going to be very happy." And then he asked me, "Can you give me a blessing?" And when I laid my hands on his head, something happened that had never happened to me in the history of blessings. For those of you that aren't LDS that might be listening to this, at times we give priesthood blessings of healing and comfort to family members and people that are sick or what have you. And he had asked for one from me, the first blessing I'd ever given my father. He'd given me several in my life, but not the other way around. And, and I, when I laid my hands on his head, I'll never forget, I mean words really fail me. To feel the intense amount of love that I just felt radiating through me, through my body out my hands. And I don't remember exactly what I said at first, but I remember muttering – I didn't know, I didn't know I had no idea, the level of love that our Father has for us – and I remember my last words to my father was, "It's okay. It's time to come home. He loves you. It's okay." And my father passed away about 15 minutes later, at peace. And in his last breath, a tear rolled down his eyes and his face went into a smile. And it struck me in this sort of powerful way, if we only knew who we really were. If we only really understood that all of us in this life are struggling, and stumbling, and making mistakes, if all of us sort of knew where we were trying to get in this life and how challenging it was there – we, we'd be there rallying each other, we'd be supporting each other we would find ways to show that love in the ways that I felt that love for my father that moment to help them get through it. And instead of judging and condemning and fighting and all the things that we engage in, we would show an increase of love. We would choose love over fear. And it deeply and profoundly changed me as a person afterwards and changed my practice in conflict resolution at that point. I knew something now deep in my bones, about our relationship to the divine, to heaven that I'd heard about and professed and talked about before, but I don't think that I ever had felt or knew at the same level, and capturing that same sort of feeling towards the people that we're struggling with will change you – surely. And it might just change them as well.
Morgan Jones 45:20
I love that story so much. That's so, so powerful. I – my grandfather just passed away a couple of weeks ago. And so that idea of that moment between life and death has been on my mind and on my heart a lot. And so thank you so much for sharing that. My last question for you, Chad, is what does it mean to you to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Chad Ford 45:44
I think that story, in many ways encapsulates that. That I am loved beyond in sometimes my own comprehension, and that as a disciple, my job is to radiate that love out towards my brothers and sisters. And it's to do it both in the way that I see them and interact with them, but also in work, in deed, and intentionality. That we're here to help, that we're here to lift up. That we're here to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, and to help the people that are mourning, and, and to sustain the people that are struggling in this life, whether it's because of their bad decisions, or because of circumstances or for whatever reason, it doesn't matter. That my discipleship is, is about helping and building that peace between us that we once felt many, many, many years ago. And I believe that we can, you know, feel again. And for those that say, "Well, that's fine. That'll happen in the afterlife." I don't think we learn how to do it in the afterlife if you don't learn how to do it here. And so for me, it's just a journey in my own life, of also figuring out how to do it here. Because I do believe that at the end of the day, love wins.
Morgan Jones 46:59
Thank you so much, Chad. This has been so helpful and I've learned so much and I just am so appreciative to you for sharing the things that you've devoted so much time to studying. So thank you.
Chad Ford 47:10
Thank you so much. And thanks for reading the book and having me on.
Morgan Jones 47:16
A huge thank you to Chad Ford for joining us on today's episode, you can find additional resources from Chad about conflict resolution by visiting www.dangerouslovebook.com. Again, that's dangerouslovebook.com. We are grateful to Derek Campbell from Mix at Six studios for his help with this – and every episode. And a big thank you to you for choosing to spend your time with us. We'll be back again next week.