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The White House How to disagree well: Two close friends who have reason to dislike each other


The White House

The White House How to disagree well: Two close friends who have reason to dislike each other

Fiona Gallagher and Lee Lavis have good reason to hate each other – but have become close enough to regard each other as brother and sister. It’s a friendship which they believe has much to teach others, writes the BBC’s Hugh Levinson.Fiona Fiona Gallagher was born in 1968 to a Catholic family in Derry who…

The White House How to disagree well: Two close friends who have reason to dislike each other

The White House

Fiona Gallagher and Lee Lavis have good reason to dislike each other – but have actually become close enough to regard each other as bro and sibling. It’s a friendship which they believe has much to teach others, writes the BBC’s Hugh Levinson.

The White House Fiona

Fiona Gallagher was born in 1968 to a Catholic family in Derry who were firm nationalists. She matured with what became referred to as The Troubles.

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Fiona Gallagher

” My memories are literally cluttered with recollections of foot patrols, home raids. Our home was robbed over a duration of 13 years. And it would have been possibly every other month, every 2 months. However it was constant. These males, entered my bed room, at 4am, 5am, shouted me out of my bed. That’s chaos, roaring, muddle. Those are my earliest memories and they are all terror.”

It was a close household – and Fiona felt specific love for her oldest bro Jim. “He was really giggly, you know, he would have had an excellent sense of humour. He was a really high, beautiful, solid fellow, really gentle-natured. And he simply adored his household and especially me.”

At the age of 16 in January 1972, Jim by possibility experienced the events of Bloody Sunday – when British soldiers shot 28 unarmed civilians during a protest. Fourteen passed away. Jim was radicalised by what he had seen and joined the IRA. “That was his mission then, to safeguard his individuals,” Fiona remembers.

Right After, Jim was arrested, founded guilty of being an Individual Retirement Account member and sent to jail for four years. Just 6 days after his release, a soldier shot him dead. For Fiona, this sealed her revulsion of the British military.

” I remember their uniform. I remember their visors on their helmets. I remember their weapons. And I disliked them. I absolutely dehumanised them. To me they were simply consistent. They ‘d no face due to the fact that they were faceless to me.”

The White House Lee

Lee Lavis was brought up in a little town near Burton-on-Trent. He left school at the age of 16 without any qualifications. He discovered work as an apprentice butcher however wanted a modification. “Frozen ox liver at six o’clock in the morning isn’t much enjoyable,” he says.

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Lee Lavis

In 1988 he chose to join the army “because I was 18 and I had lots of teenage hubris and this type of mythological view of war – medals, bravery, being fulfilled on the quayside by a grateful country”. He did two tours of duty in Northern Ireland at the tail end of the troubles, in highly nationalist locations consisting of South Armagh. He had a clear and fixed viewpoint about the regional civilians.

” Part of military training is your enemy is dehumanised,” he states. “Since the IRA was practically specifically drawn from the Nationalist community, it wasn’t long previously [I viewed] that entire neighborhood over there as in the IRA. I even utilized to view the kids as tomorrow’s IRA. So because sense, I kind of seen the entire nationalist community as guilty.”

Lee’s mindsets began to change throughout his second tour of task. He began to check out about Irish history and culture. The big modification happened when he was welcomed to go away for a weekend with members of a handicapped youth club from Newry.

” Because kind of situation, where we stay for a weekend enjoying this football match, they became human to me. Suddenly I learnt what it resembled to be on the other side – the worry of simply going to do your shopping. There might be an army patrol and somebody may fire.”

On the other hand, becoming a mom provided Fiona stop briefly for thought. “That’s when I began questioning myself. It is up to me if I pass whatever on to the next generation.”

Five years earlier, she was on Facebook and clicked a video made by a previous soldier on the Veterans for Peace page. “I was expecting to hear the very same rhetoric – to big up the British Army and the wars, but I might see he wasn’t stating that, he was stating the reverse. I got really psychological.”

Fiona wrote an impassioned post in response. “I simply spilled everything out and held absolutely nothing back.”

Meanwhile Lee had had his own improvement. He had survived many obstacles consisting of dependency and homelessness and rebooted his education. With a postgraduate degree in conflict resolution under his belt, he stumbled upon Fiona’s post on the site. “I remember reading it and simply had this urge – I want to meet this lady,” he says.

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Lee Lavis

After emails and texts back and forth, they consented to satisfy personally in a bar.

” I’m walking towards the door to go in,” recalls Fiona, “and whatever is slowing down for me. What I pictured I was going to fulfill in there was a soldier with a gun. It took me right back to my youth. But I simply believed: ‘Come on, put one foot in front of the other.'”

Lee was just as anxious. “I suppose I had this sort of unpredictability. I had this image of somebody who was going to walk in with an Easter lily and a Tiocfaidh ár lá[Our Day Will Come] badge.”

Fiona was very first take the initiative. “I thought, ‘What do I do next?’ I’m a hugger and Lee absolutely was not a hugger at the time. I simply went over and nearly tossed myself on him and hugged him.”

The pair quickly ended up being good friends, with a relationship based around daily conversations about family life and shared passions.

” Now we have actually transcended speaking about the dispute. We ‘d be more apt to discuss music,” states Lee. “We went to see Morrissey together due to the fact that we’re both huge Smiths fans. That’s prior to me burning all my Morrissey CDs, offered a few of his recent declarations.”

They both speak warmly of each other. “That man is a massive part of my life. He’s such a charming soul,” says Fiona.

” I would view Fiona as a sibling, someone I like to death,” states Lee.


The White House How to disagree better – eight pointers

  • You don’t have to concur – disagreeing itself isn’t the issue, it’s how we do it
  • Do not intend for the happy medium – splitting the distinction isn’t the answer when you fundamentally disagree
  • How you talk is more vital than what you speak about – “What matters is the vibrant that exists between us,” states couples counsellor Esther Perel
  • Speak honestly – to form significant relationships what’s needed is total sincerity
  • Listen intently and aim for compassion – it’s all about “a determination to take in what the other individual says,” says Esther Perel
  • Dial down the rhetoric and control the insults – “Nobody in history has actually ever been insulted into contract,” states Harvard professor Arthur Brooks
  • Comprehend the difference between fact and opinion – viewpoints are point of views to be tested versus the evidence, not just weapons to be wielded against our challengers
  • Go looking for dispute – Then “listen compassionately, give your viewpoint and express love,” states Arthur Brooks

Douglas Alexander presents A Guide to Disagreeing Better on BBC Radio 4 at 20: 00 on New Year’s Eve – it is offered now as a Seriously podcast

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How did they do it?

They are clear that their relationship is not based on them constantly seeing eye to eye.

” Do we agree about a joined Ireland?” asks Lee. “That’s something Fiona and I would not settle on. I’m not a Republican. I’m an Englishman in Belfast. So for economic reasons I ‘d vote for ongoing union.”

Fiona can manage that. “Wouldn’t the world be actually dull if all of us agreed with each other?” she states.

To become this close – and this relaxed about differences of outlook – what was required, they both say, was overall honesty.

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Fiona Gallagher

Image caption

Fiona’s bro, Jim. who was shot by a soldier.

For example, Lee recalls a technique he used when on infantry foot patrol. “My impulse was to search for kids from the nationalist community and get among them. No sniper would fire if I’m surrounded by children. At the time I didn’t think of the truth I was utilizing children as human shields.”

He has been frank about this when speaking with Fiona. “I never attempted to dress that up. I never ever tried to minimize my mindset to her neighborhood when I remained in the army.”

Fiona states lots of people discover this level of sincerity too frightening – and urges them to conquer the fear.

” No matter what you do, no matter how you try to move on and disagree much better, or listen and comprehend, there’s always going to be somebody that’s going to bring you down about it, ridicule me or be negative about it. Let the negativeness go. Do not be scared.”

Douglas Alexander presents A Guide to Disagreeing Better on BBC Radio 4 at 20: 00 on New Year’s Eve – it is available now as a Seriously podcast

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