Pablo Mota-Rodriguez is a post-graduate student on the Development Studies programme. Here he discusses what he has learnt during the LSE Interfaith Ambassadors mediation training…
As part of our training to become LSE Interfaith Ambassadors, the LSE Faith Centre organised a course to train us in the mediation of conflict. The provider was St. Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace and our convener was Mr. Simon Keys.
This was a very exciting day in which we engaged in different activities that allowed us to work on the concept of ‘disagreement success’. ‘Disagreement success’ is the “recognition that competing interests of the antagonists in a dispute require some kind of mutuality”. In other words, it is to acknowledge that, at the end, we do not need to agree, but we ought to find common grounds on our disagreements and understand each other’s point of view by listening to the ‘other’s’ position. This action of putting ourselves on the “other side’s shoes” is one of the basic features needed to understand our opponent, and one that we so many times fail to practice.
We started by playing some games which fine-tuned our listening skills and at the end of the first part of the workshop we played another game in which we stood in a particular part of the room to show our stand on a particular issue, this helped to show how varied our viewpoints were, but also how our assumptions about the views and actions of others are often incorrect.
The second part of the training focused on alternative disagreement pathways. This is when, in disagreement with the other, we face two choices: the path to conflict, and the path to complexity. This concept is the core of the ‘disagreement success’ strategy, and one that could be used to avoid escalation of differences and potential conflict as a consequence of such escalation. Under this scheme we were showed that one can opt for the ‘complexity’ route, rather than conflict, by:
- Avoiding taking sides and exercise curiosity,
- Listening carefully instead of being influenced by selective information,
- De-personalizing conflict and acknowledging the disagreement is about issues and not about the other person,
- Developing a sophisticated understanding of my own position and avoiding generalizations,
- Valuing the position of my opponent and avoiding devaluing him because he/she does not share my view, and
- Exercising constructive action and taking personal responsibility for finding a positive outcome without having to agree.
Some of the strategies we used to move from conflict to complexity are: de-escalating the arguments and creating a safe negotiating environment, deconstructing stereotypes to depolarize factors leading to conflict, exploring the threats for each side and finding what lies beneath them, stimulating self-awareness on both sides to recognize patterns of negative behavior, and seeking transformation by recognizing the humanity of the opponent. All these features made so much sense when discussing our different positions regarding our recent trip to Holy Land.
The conflict mediation workshop gave us a set of tools that would better prepare ourselves to navigate conflict and deal with opposing positions between our peers at the LSE and in our future careers. The sense of responsibility that came attached with the interfaith experience in January now has taken better shape with this training and is materializing through our ambassadorships. It is my hope that we in the School, as well as in our communities use better tools and find better channels to achieve reconciliation, peace, and progress as our societies so much need and deserve it.
With many thanks to the Annual Fund for their generous sponsorship of the LSE Interfaith Ambassadors Scheme, including this mediation training.