Hello, and welcome to Righting Relations radio, an experimental podcast sharing resources, ideas and inspiration for adult educators and community organizers across Turtle Island, working for positive transformation, Liberation and Justice. Today, we are talking about dialogue for peaceful change. And we're joined by Ishbel Munro, who shares about her experience working with this international community based conflict mediation methodology, She is joined by other members of the network on an online national talking circle.
We start with a lot of communication skills, and a lot of things around listening. If you're ever talking with someone, and they keep bringing the same point, again and again, and you're getting frustrated by it, it means they don't feel heard. And so what a lot of the work is when you're doing the mediations is reflecting that back to them so that they do feel heard, they do feel that somebody's got it. And then once they felt heard, they can open up to be able to hear, it's an extremely experiential program. And there's times where it can be very intense for people, because it does bring up things like white privilege, and good hearted people with good intentions, realize that, you know, they've have done something that has impacted someone. And they were meaning harm, but it did. And it just came from a place of white privilege. And so it highlights all these sorts of issues. I've seen the mediations work in lots of different ways. I did one mediation for a nonprofit, which was quite striking, in that when I first called them, they told me it was an issue of who's going to put the toilet paper in the bathroom. But of course, it ended up being much more complicated than that. Yeah, you know, it's you get down there, and there's all these layers. And part of this process is looking at what are the pillars? So you look at the fears. What are the fears that people have that are keeping this society going? And you identify? What are the pillars that are holding up this conflict? And how can we address those. And so the first step is just getting people together and being able to hear each other. And often, they will hear it when the person says it. But as the mediator, you reflect back to that person, so they can feel heard. And also the other person gets to hear it, because they can't hear it in their voice, the person that they're in conflict with, but they can hear it in your and so it causes a change. And you also do mentoring, where you work with people to get them to really use I statements instead of attacking each other. And I know this one woman at this nonprofit said that it changed her relationship with her children and changed her relationship with her husband. And was just a huge transformation. The training has been used around the world. Just a couple of examples. It was used in Uganda to try and help children who had become soldiers to be able to reenter their communities, which was obviously very traumatic. It was used in Northern Ireland. So when the IRA and the other folks who were in prisons were about to be released, people started going in and doing work in the prisons, to build relationships between the two groups so that when they came out, the same violence wouldn't reoccur. We used a similar technique here in Nova Scotia. So when the marshal decision which reaffirmed the rights for Mi'kmaq to be able to fish we did behind the scenes work bringing non native and native fishermen together and having conversations so you didn't have the violence here that you saw in New Brunswick, which was quite horrendous.
Ah, but I, I'm, I'm, I can't wait to hear more about this. And I am wondering, I know that you've implied the connection between this process, this peaceful dialogue. It's dialogue for peaceful change, and the process of decolonization. I wonder if you could say something more about that. How you see that?
Well, I think it plays in on a lot of different levels. For me, decolonial a colonialization has caused us to be separate from each other to come from an individualistic mindset. And to have, you know, has created the whole sort of patriarchal. This system is all circle where everyone is equal, everyone has a voice. And it gets us to a place of recognizing that equality doesn't equate equal, that we all have our own needs. It gets people to, because of the, the experiential, there's one particular exercise that really brings out white privilege, things like, well, we gave them a hand up, you know, by lowering expectations, and then you would debrief and say, and how did that feel to you Team A, that you were given a handout, and people would respond, and people would be, like, oh, we meant to be helpful. And they get to, people get to look at and experience in their own bodies, what those things like. And so, there's been times after, after that particular exercise where different leaders have ended up different people, you know, taking a break, we usually always schedule it, there's a break right after, and helping people process differently. And that can cause a real mind shift for people. Um, you know, I've seen it, particularly with white women who may feel that, yes, there is barriers for them as women because they're not men. And go to a place of guilt, which is not useful, or go to a place of defensiveness, which is not useful. And this helps people to truly break through that and be able to see the human impacts around the whole O'Neill system, and the whole structure, the way that it is set up. And I think then, clearly having the analytical piece around the fears based model versus the circular model, which a lot of indigenous cultures from around the world, have that worldview, which is very different, that we all are inter connected, that diversity is needed that and welcome. And then we do have an advanced workshop, as well, where we go deeper into some of those issues, and also go deeper into mediating yourself because it is very different to be mediating a conflict. And mediating one that you are, you know, because when you're in it, you've got your own emotions. And so being able to stay in that place of saying things with an eye statement being open and clear, can be quite tricky. And the main thing is curiosity. You have to suspend. If you're thinking this person is a jerk, and I'll never get it, it's not going to work. Right? You know, you have to, you have to be able to look at okay, what are their fears that are driving them to have this position? And, and how can we get to the point of hearing them. And then when you're doing an actual mediation process, you get people to the point of brainstorming and coming up with solutions. And then you can pare that back to, we call it the issues, but it's the fears that are driving them or whatever the concerns are, to make sure that the solutions meet all these. And it's, it's quite amazing the things that that can come up, and the things that that can work for people. And it's really critical to suspend judgment, which is a real trick on
learning how to watch yourself. So you need to be when you're mediating, to be very aware in yourself and in your body and to know, what are the flags like, Oh, I'm getting tight here. Something's just impacted me. I need to call a break and see what it is that I'm dealing with. So I can clear that away and continue this and the best way I can Describe doing that is by staying curious. So instead of judging someone that, oh, they don't get this, or, you know, just really staying curious and asking open ended questions like, I can see this thing really bubbling up for you, can you tell me what that's about? Or you know, like, I can see this really bothers you. And you explain a bit more about that. And one of the key words that we never use is the word why. As soon as you say to somebody, why did you do that? You have said, You were totally wrong. So it's, it's finding a way in the word why will always make somebody defensive? Why were you late? If you say, what happened, did something called you up, it comes across as completely different. And the other key component that we always try and use with this work is to work in pairs when you're actually doing mediation, which works really well. Because when you're mediating, you need to be totally focused. And sometimes you may not catch something else that's happening. So if you're mediating group with like, eight or 10 people in the room, it's helpful if there's someone else with you, because because they can catch body language and say, oh, when that person said that, this other one, immediately tightened up, and then that lets you know, that's something that you need to explore further. And it's mostly using open ended questions, reflecting back, so you break it up and reflect back what you've heard to them pulling out the highlights, and it's amazing the impact that it can have, for a person just feel heard, when we go into a mediation, we always say, you know, there's no guarantee this is going to work. And there's often times when you think, oh, you know, I wonder if we are going to be able to have some transformations here or not. And the key thing is often as the mediator you want, you know, that temptation is to jump in and provide the solution. And you need to realize that then they're not going to hold, because it is imposed upon, no matter how wonderful and creative they are, the solutions need to come from the people themselves. Because then there's, there's full buy in, and they know, the subtleties that you may not know. And so not having an attachment to knowing whether something is going to work or not. But being willing to risk can be you need definitely need courage for to be able to say, okay, you know, I need to go deeper, there's something underneath here. And you're right, like some of the things that come out. So surprising, like things that you just didn't think were there. And for the person, they often don't know, that they're reacting to that I've had people in a conflict, who suddenly realize that it has nothing to do with this person. And it's their relationship with their mother. And there's something that for whatever reason, they do something similar, and they're reacting on that level. And so they need to process that and often will help them
process that as well. So, yeah, it's amazing what can come out. And he always is if somebody keeps repeating a point, they're not feeling heard. And there's something deeper under there, that you need to keep drilling down to explore what stat about, it also deals with looking at the iceberg type of model. And there's a whole cycle that you see how there's a whole analysis of how conflicts have different stages. And then there's the underside of the conflict. So often what you see in the world is people get various leaders together to resolve conflicts and come up with agreements. But it doesn't involve any of the community people underneath. So these people who have been having anger or resentments are all kinds of things with each other for sometimes generations are expected to suddenly get along because the leaders have come to agreement and that's not the way it works. When I was trained, just in the Dalhousie method, I kept getting called down to the Bay of Fundy to mediate these disputes between to some fishing communities and I was dealing with the leaders and we get everything resolved. And, you know, two months later, they'd be calling me back again. And I kept thinking about, we're not causing a shift a transformation for the entire community. And we need to be looking at that. And dialogue for peaceful change includes that. You know, so we did things like had, we had dinners, we had very large comping circles. We did different ways of being able to connect the community so that there could be a shift, a transformation, and a shift in the way that we look at each other, for the entire community. And that's really needed in the long run for causing lasting change.
Beautiful, thank you for sharing so much as well. And thank you everyone for joining. I'm wondering if we can just do a very rapid one word check out just like a word that expresses how this might have impacted you today. Or maybe how you what you take from it. I'm happy to start us off and pass it again to the left. I will say gratitude. It's my word. Pass the talking piece over
here. Suzanne, I'd say interconnected worldviews. Angelica. I think I am inspired. Barb. I have I don't follow instructions very well. And so I've got relief and gratitude.
Zisa Yeah, connected, fun doing all this work very locally. So it's it's wonderful. People thinking through the same things in other places, and being connected in that work. Thank you.
It's Christine. Ensures I think, Nancy, very thankful for the sharing and the reminders.
And I'll say Happy never done these kinds of things. So yeah, wasn't sure how it would go.
You did great. Thank you for joining us at Righting Relations radio. For more resources, visit us at our website at rightingrelations.org