“WeiJi-Between Crisis and Opportunity”…Who says?

“WeiJi-Between Crisis and Opportunity”…Who says?

There are a lot of motivational speakers, trainers, and “conflict specialists” who talk about the way the Chinese see conflict. They draw attention to the fact that the Chinese do not have a specific word for conflict, but rather two characters, wei and ji.  I have sat through workshops where somebody would inevitably hold up a framed poster that contained the symbols wei ji and say to the effect of, “the Chinese don’t believe conflict is a bad thing.  The symbols you see here say, ‘between crisis and opportunity,’ that’s how they see conflict.”

While that is certainly one way to interpret conflict, language scholars suggest that wei means perilous, dangerous, precarious, fear, or afraid.  And ji probably best translates to crucial point.  Politicians like JFK, Gore, Nixon, and Condoleeza Rice as well as business speakers love to use the designation “between crisis and opportunity” but those who study Chinese dialect see that more as folklore or wishful thinking.

The fact that this has been morphed by wishful thinking begs an interesting question: was this phrase mutated because it was a good marketing tool or was it changed because at the core, humans truly believe that conflict can be a crisis or an opportunity?  The answer may be a bit of both.  However, that doesn’t discount the fact that this slogan is a great way to approach conflict in our lives.  Sure, it can be precarious, dangerous, perilous and if ignored can become a true crisis, but when handled properly, conflict can also lead to huge opportunities.


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