Conflict is Communication

Delegate Sponaugle and Speaker Armstead have a conversation behind the Speaker’s podium. Photo by Perry Bennett, Legislative Photography.


This week, perhaps more than others this session, the Capitol has been the site of a number of hard fought battles, both those seen on the news and those behind the scenes. Vitally important issues for our state and our neighbors are being struggled over and it’s easy to think of folks as “bad guys” and “good guys,” or to wonder why folks can’t just work something out.

While it’s not true in every case, it’s important to note that this type of conflict is more than just people at odds with one another. In this case, conflict is communication.

When conflict occurs between interest groups and legislators, a larger conversation is taking place.

Public demonstrations communicate the importance of an issue and the extent to which those demonstrating feel it will impact them. Action or inaction on the part of legislators might be an act of trying to balance multiple, competing pieces of legislation; an effort to gain votes; or a lack of understanding about why or how to address a challenge.

In so many cases these important conversations are happening around incredibly meaningful issues like jobs, livelihood, and health.

So if these conflicts are a result of different groups communicating what they need, what has to happen to move that conversation forward?

It’s a question which has a rich history in WV, and one that citizens continue to work out the answer to.

And, while it’s incredibly important to be able to understand the larger conversation that happens when conflicts like this arise, it’s also necessary to evaluate what role each of us can play in making sure that every voice that has a stake in the discussion is heard.

When things get hairy and, let’s face it, during the Legislative Session they often do, it’s our job to support community members across WV, to make sure that the conversation keeps moving, and to keep and eye on the conversation so that those who will be impacted most get a chance to say what they need.

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