The more divided our societies become, the more risk there is of conflict escalating and violence breaking out.
It’s up to each and every one of us to be aware of the forces at play that are creating divides and play a role in healing division. Here are some conflict resolution tips to apply in your own life.
1. Reach out: rather than avoiding people whose opinions differ to yours and speaking only within your own ‘echo chamber’, actively seek out different perspectives and viewpoints.
2. Avoid immediate reaction: If you encounter someone who doesn’t share your view or when you hear or read something you disagree with rather than reacting immediately – often with anger or frustration – pause and reflect on what they are saying. Give yourself time to really digest what they are saying before you respond and consider where this viewpoint might have come from.
3. Listen: practice active listening, particularly when you encounter someone with an opposing view or in a conflict situation. Don’t interrupt, and initially keep your opinions to yourself. By remembering key facts from what the person is saying and responding accordingly, you’ll let people know you care about what they say. Allowing someone to speak and showing that you are listening to what they have to say often helps calm them down.
4. Play back what you heard to show you really understood. After listening, paraphrase the speaker’s message (don’t repeat their exact words like a parrot; instead, restate their ideas in a novel way). This helps them feel ‘heard’.
5. Understand: Ask constructive, but not aggressively challenging, questions to try and really understand the other person’s point of view.
6. Empathise: put yourself in their shoes and really try and see where they are coming from. Consider their background, family, environment and life experiences. What is motivating them to feel this way and hold the beliefs that they have?
7. Common ground: while there might be many things you disagree on, look for areas or topics that you do agree on, or things you have in common, such as coming from a similar area, both having children or both enjoying a particular activity. Find things that you can share and discuss, that can generate warmth and build a bridge between you.
8. Look for solutions: once you have really heard what someone has said, try and find a solution that suits both sides, if in a conflict situation, or find a way of agreeing on some aspects of the debate or problem.
9. Bring people together: find ways of bringing people with diverse backgrounds, opinions and experiences together. Learn from each other, share and connect!
10. Seek out peacebuilders: Look for the individuals and organisations who are undertaking peacebuilding work in a professional capacity. Learn from the information and resources they produce and consider supporting them directly.
Remember, conflict is a normal part of human life - it's how we handle it that matters.
Peace can start when you #SeeTheHuman in others. However, situations of violent conflict are usually much more complex. Often there are deep-rooted injustices and trauma, and multiple different groups, states and individuals involved.
Despite this, peacebuilding can and does work. Find out more about how approaches to building peace help prevent and end violent conflict.