My fellow colleagues, let me tell you about a man named Henry, a conflict resolution specialist who is not your average mediator. No, Henry is a man of many hats, he’s a mediator, a negotiator, a problem solver, and most importantly, a “conflict transformer.”
The art of conflict resolution is one that requires not just diplomacy, negotiation skills, and problem-solving abilities, but also a deep understanding of human emotions and needs. As peacebuilders and mediators, it is often tempting to believe that we can step into another person’s shoes and understand their perspective, but in reality, we know much less about other people than we think. This is why it is time for us to move away from ‘empathy’ but to embrace it through ‘radical compassion’ in conflict resolution.
Compassion goes beyond empathy by acknowledging the fears and concerns of the people involved in a conflict, whether or not we understand them. This helps people feel heard, and is a crucial aspect of the multi-dimensional role of today’s mediator. The world of conflict is becoming increasingly complex, and it is essential for peacebuilders to continually expand their skills and work with the depth of human emotion involved in conflicts.
Mindfulness is not just a tool for personal growth and wellbeing, but also an important skill in conflict resolution. By becoming more self-aware and managing our own emotions when triggered, we are better equipped to sense where other people are coming from, expand our ‘other’ awareness through our emotional intelligence, and build stronger relationships. In this sense, mindfulness is not just a way to improve our own lives, but also a critical tool for improving and guiding others through conflicts.
We have evolved beyond the days when a mediator’s role was limited to mediating disputes, negotiating settlements, and solving problems. Today’s conflict resolution specialists are more than that – they are “conflict transformers.” The opposite of violence and escalation of conflict is not just about peace, but about including different perspectives and fostering open discussions about differences into ‘learning conversations.’ The division that arises in conflicts is often the result of a lack of vision for how things could be different, rather than the actual (and often factual) differences in dispute.
To truly transform conflicts, we must go beyond interests. Here are seven basic needs that drive human behavior on which to focus. These needs tie into Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and include:
- Security – feeling psychologically safe.
- Autonomy – the ability to make decisions about one’s life rather than feeling trapped.
- Connection – we are human beings and have a need to connect, not feel isolated and excluded.
- Peace – we all seek peace in our worlds and truly want people to get along.
- Expansion – the opportunity to learn and grow, be curious and courageous.
- Authenticity – the desire to be true to self and transparent to others.
- Meaning – we all strive to have a purpose in our lives.
By understanding and addressing these needs, we can shift our mindset and approach conflicts with greater clarity, compassion, and strength.
Henry’s view of people in conflict was largely transformed, but it wasn’t just about peace. It was about the inclusion of different perspectives and the ability to talk about those differences. The division that arises in conflict is not about the problem, but, again, a lack of vision for how their worlds can be different. That’s why Henry takes viewers through these four questions to shift their mindset:
- Why is it necessary to expand our view of conflict?
- Why our divisions are not the problem?
- How can we move from reacting to conflict with fear, avoidance, or aggression to responding with strength, clarity, and compassion?
- Why is mindfulness a critical tool for conflict resolution?
As I sum this up, the art of conflict resolution requires a multi-dimensional approach that goes beyond interests, and addresses the underlying needs and emotions involved. By embracing radical compassion, expanding our emotional intelligence through mindfulness, and focusing on the seven basic needs that drive human behavior, we can become true conflict transformers and work towards a world of greater peace and understanding.
So, my friends, let us all take a page out of Henry’s book and be ‘conflict transformers,’ not just mediators. Let’s embrace radical compassion and be mindful of those around us. Let’s go beyond interests and focus on the seven basic needs to truly help foster a better and more inclusive world.
And who knows, maybe one day, we too will embark on a transformative journey through the Himalayas on a motorcycle.