Embrace versus conquest

crop hands of anonymous multiethnic couple touching hands in light studio

“It’s always easier to swim with the river’s current than against it.” This quote, and others like it, are likely quite common and known to most of us. The sentiment behind this quote is one of collaboration, working together, and embracing change or difference, rather than resisting it. A similar concept which has come up for me in different contexts is one of “embrace” versus “conquest”.

To conquer something or someone is to “gain or acquire by force“. Whether a business, a country, or an individual, there is an element of force involved, and likely a lack of willingness on the conquered to comply. As described in Edgar Schein’s “Helping”, there is a “one-upness” and “one-downness” in the relationship.

To embrace something or someone is to connect by way of acceptance and wholeness from both sides of the interaction.

The above two definitions expose “conquest” as being one-sided. In order for one side to “win” or “conquer”, the other side must be subdued and “lose”.

I find the tension between these words to be fascinating and, when applied in different contexts, has helped me to clarify the way I like to live my life; through embrace.

When we think of conquering something, we likely think of nations and long-fought battles. There are smaller aspects of life where recognising the tension between conquering and embrace can be extremely helpful.

Consider a scenario where you want to see a certain outcome in a situation, and you’re not the only person involved in achieving that outcome. It could be work-related, or it could be as simple as getting the family to the park on time for the scheduled family picnic. In the latter example, lets say there are family members who take a long time to get themselves ready to leave the house. This is a perfect opportunity to practice embrace over conquest.

“Conquest” in this example might look like force- pushing the person to get ready quicker, making sure they’ve packed everything they need, and reminding them that the picnic starts at 10am. None of this helps the person get ready any quicker.

“Embrace”, on the other hand, brings the person along for the journey, by exposing the scenario, and sharing in creating the solution. “Honey, I’ve packed our bags and the picnic blanket. Is there anything I’m forgetting?” – this simple sentence evens out the “one-upness” and “one-downness”, bringing the other person along for the solution-creating journey. It’s also an approach which consumes far less of your energy, leaving more energy available to enjoy the moment, embrace the beauty of whatever you’re working on together, and to spread those feelings to others.

In summary, choose embrace wherever possible, even in what might seem like the smallest or most insignificant of scenarios. When conquering another person, you’ll forever need to do somersaults, cartwheels, and sit on their head to get them to do anything, and it’ll drain all of your energy. Embracing them brings the other person(s) along to create the solution, and preserves your energy for where it’s better spent. The best part of all is, all you’ll need to do is ask.

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