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“Nobody gets angry about things they don’t care about”

International mediator Ken Cloke, one of the leading writers and thinkers in the field of conflict, joined John Sturrock and over fifty mediators and professionals at the Scottish Storytelling Centre on Friday 29th September 2017 for a day of learning and reflection about solving conflict in society. Participants were treated to a masterclass of discussion and wisdom on topics ranging from personal disagreement to international political conflict, and how greater diversity can offer different perspectives to help solve conflicts.

Insights from neuroscience were set alongside Ken Cloke’s many years of experience as a mediator, and his role as Director of the Centre for Dispute Resolution in Santa Monica, California, prompting discussions about how conflict is such a normal part of our lives, and the role of empathy in understanding and resolving conflict. “What storytelling does in the context of conflict resolution, is provide an opening to empathy”, commented Cloke. “[It’s] A way of not just hearing the specific words that another person is saying, but actually hearing the meaning beneath the words.”

Themes such as anger, vulnerability, fear and jealousy were identified for their role beneath conflict, leading to deeper investigation of how factors such as care and love can ultimately be the deepest values underlying a conflict. Cloke added, “No-one gets angry about things they don’t care about.” Taking an interest-based approach to conflict, creating dialogue between parties which comes from a place of joint interest, was outlined as one of many factors that help to create a path to resolving conflict.

Ultimately, the responsibility of conflict mediators is to be authentic, reflected Joan Goldsmith, mediator and leadership developer. To create better dialogue and less conflict in society, we need to be prepared to be courageous, and collaborate on better conversations. We need to surround ourselves with people who can stimulate and support us, and remember that, as Ken Cloke concluded, “There is no them. There’s just us…”

A Day of Storytelling was organised by Core Solutions and Collaborative Scotland.

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