The U.S. and Cuba Complete This Basic Step in Being Relational

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After over half a century of proverbially standing with their backs to each other, the United States and Cuba have taken a monumental step toward establishing quality interaction: that is, by actually interacting.
 
For decades, the two countries have handled their differences by essentially stonewalling, or avoidance. In this case, that involved severing lines of communication, trade and travel way back in 1961 during the Cold War. Though sanctions of this nature are commonly used by disagreeing nations as methods of pressure and coercion, we know from our understanding of what it means to be relational that such tactics only serve to escalate conflict in practice, whether between individuals, organizations, or entire populations of people. Stonewalling, or punitive sanctions in this context, is a sign of disrespect and disregard. It serves to inflame suspicion and can also be a form of bullying. While in the short term a powerful nation may be able to leverage its influence through stonewalling, this undermines trust and provokes a desire to retaliate. The outcome is almost always insecurity, fear, tension, and, in some cases, war.
 
By choosing to engage, the US and Cuba have taken a critical first step toward transforming their conflict in a positive way. On July 20th, the ceremonial raising of Cuba’s flag at its newly-restored embassy in Washington D.C. symbolized a mutual commitment between President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro to opening dialouge between the countries they represent. That diplomatic presence alone generates a powerful, positive energy.
 
To be clear, this does not mean that the US and Cuba now share the same ideology, nor should they necessarily have to. From what we know through principles of mediation, being relational is not a solution in and of itself, but a process through which better outcomes emerge. By employing specific attitudes and behaviors prescribed by the ways of being relational, new pathways for conflict transformation are able to emerge that are sometimes unforeseen in the midst of a relational crisis. Being relational creates opportunities to break that cycle of conflict.
 
While engaging is a prerequisite for quality interaction, that is only one facet of the dynamic process that encompasses what it means to be relational. Hopefully, this pivotal moment in redefining how the US and Cuba relate is just the beginning of a shift toward positive negotiations and a new precedent of openness and respect.
 
Photo Credit:
Title: Bandiera
Photographer: Daniele Febei
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/danifeb/4071180199/in/photolist-7cKS34-9WU2D1-9WRaHV-wg38Yy-wg5KH5-wg5JFf-7LYMQi-3K8qPR-wh8kzM-dNNpgS-47VrGN-8WrYCu-oweQoH-e4Q5zq-5VqMWD-DZrWp-KkVMa-cuPak-wmNeYk-65dAGq-u3xWR-w4MYbj-vnJzvP-vnNku4-vpvMWp-w349zh-vnHNAt-w32uMW-w34b2q-vnzQX9-w4NMCm-BN2GA-wk3aaX-vnyYEL-w2Yzq7-w4NYuJ-vnDBHL-w3b5Et-whg5Dj-vnBXU1-w32uDC-wjDaE4-wjB1AB-w3b76p-wk66vg-vnC11f-vnzSu7-w2Zoau-uJTRP-c66o3S
License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

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