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Talking to Parties about Conflict

Talking to Parties about Conflict

In mediation, do you talk to the parties about conflict theory?



Full Transcript

Oh yes. I think so. I think getting people to understand and acknowledge, the situation they’re in is very helpful because it’s very often something which… conflict is I think a bit of a taboo. People don’t like acknowledging the fact that they are in conflict. One of the things because of that, I would say when I’m training mediators or facilitators, that one of your first obligations is to create a safe space. To create safety for people so that they can talk about the things which are troubling them and feel safe while doing so and that really is terribly important in some situations. You build confidence in people that they are somewhere where they can acknowledge things that which may have otherwise prefer not to.


You have to build that confidence. Some of that we go back to process design. When there is very little confidence among the parties, you have to think about what we call, often talk about the visible products and the invisible products. The visible products of a dialogue process is, people come to… they may arrive with a piece of paper or certain protocols or certain agreements to meet again and to have certain conversations.


The invisible products are also very important. Things like trust and confidence, and mutual understanding. Very often if you’ve got people who are in a very polarized situation, you invest time to give people a chance to really understand each other better and having done that you can then begin to talk about more complicated things. In a sense, it’s a process of actually teaching people to talk to people who they’ve never talked to before and maybe even types of people that have no experience with before.

About the mediator

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Andrew Acland specialises in designing and facilitating stakeholder dialogue and consultation processes in complex, multi-party, multi-issue contexts, often with environmental and social sustainability dimensions. Andrew began his working life as a political analyst specialising in East-West relations and arms control. In 1985, while working on the staff of the then Archbishop of Canterbury, he acted as assistant to the Archbishop’s envoy, T... View Mediator