John McCain: A Lesson in Winning

We are a people of contests. In our lives, we make decisions and advancements based on competition – in our courts, in our sports, and most recently, in our politics. Good and evil transforms into winners and losers. We just experienced one of the largest political races in modern history, and as in all competitions, only one contestant could win. Somebody had to lose. However, a loser can transform into a winner.

The person who lost the contest was Senator John McCain. However, Senator McCain also made headlines for his graciousness and his message of collaborativeness after a difficult defeat. After a long and challenging campaign, we could all certainly understand if he feels distraught, angry, and even cheated. Senator McCain himself recognized that when he said, “It’s natural, tonight, to feel some disappointment.”

However, Senator McCain did not dwell on those emotions. He didn’t choose to simply pay President-Elect Barack Obama lip-service with a disingenuous congratulatory message. He did say, “I had the honor of calling Senator Barack Obama to congratulate him on being elected the next president of the country that we both love.” He could have stopped there.

Instead, Senator McCain held out a sturdy olive branch, and he extended it with sincerity. He said that President-Elect Obama is a “good man” who “commands his respect”. He added, “I deeply admire and commend him for (his achievement).”

He then went on to urge his supporters to rally around President-Elect Obama. He did not ignore that they have different concerns and different solutions; however, he expressed his belief that there are common goals more important than the two of them as individuals. He said, “Senator Obama and I have had and argued our differences, and he has prevailed. No doubt many of those differences remain.” He added in the next breath, “And I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face.”

He went on to say, “I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences… Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans.”

Unfortunately, his supporters were not heeding his message. As David Gardner wrote in a column following the election, “But his supporters were not so generous in defeat. Mr McCain had to stop them from booing Mr Obama’s name.”

The lesson we can learn from Senator John McCain is that in our common challenges, we can dig deep to find a vision that transcends our personal needs and positions. Mutual concerns require a focus on mutual solutions, rather than a focus on polarized differences. That is how a loser becomes a winner.

Being Collaborative as a Family

Every family has conflict and challenges. Families, however, can find ways to communicate and empathize with each other despite the conflict and challenges.

Families who are able to work through conflict typically focus on concerns and outcomes, not positions. Positions are pre-determined and tell the other person you are inflexible and unwilling to listen to what they have to say. Families who communicate effectively do not place a higher priority on being right than they place on the relationship itself. Members of these families acknowledge when the other person is correct and when the other person has made a valid point.

Here are some tips to help you focus on concerns and outcomes:

  • Write out your feelings and concerns before discussing them
  • Explain to the other person how their behavior is affecting you
  • Remove “blame” words from your discussion
  • Control your anger
  • Be flexible and willing to consider other’s suggestions
  • Commit to finding an optimum and workable solution

Unfortunately, even families who communicate well can find themselves going through a divorce. The effective communication skills the family members have developed can still be used in the divorce process.

  • These families accept the divorce and commit to avoiding conflict
  • These families keep the children out of the conflict
  • These families maintain a high level of communication between both parents and the children
  • These families view future co-parenting responsibilities as a business partnership