The stories of disagreements, disputes, arguments and fights matters more than the disagreements, disputes, arguments and fights themselves, to both the professional peace builder and the public looking for the right advice at the right moment.
The frame, or story, that conflict engagement professionals tell themselves about conflicts that they resolve, their professional strengths, and even what they have to offer to the public, is typically a positive, education based framing.
But the public frames conflict in negative terms, embedded inside personalized frames of reference:
“This happened to me!”
“He’s the problem, not me.”
“I’m right. They’re wrong. You fix it!”
No one needs help resolving conflicts in their lives, and the dichotomy between public and professional storytelling about conflicts backs up this assertion. The story of conflict for the public—and the narrative framing they operate in—is one that does not line up with the product offerings of many in the field of peacebuilding.
In the public, there are people who don’t see disagreements, disputes, arguments, fights, or confrontations as relevant occurrences in their own lives. Sure, other people have problems, but not them. The story that they tell themselves is one of floating through the world, disagreement free—and all a peace builders fervent framing efforts aren’t going to persuade them otherwise.
However, when other people around them are privately asked “Who causes the most problems around here?” the answer comes back to those individuals who think they aren’t the problem.
There is one way out of this for the public and two ways out of this for the professional peace builder:
- For the peace builder, if the terms “conflict,” “dispute,” “resolution” and others have no meaning for the public (or target market) who you want to buy your products, processes, and services, then change the wording. And peace building professionals know, that when the wording changes, the framing shifts.
- For the peace builder, as the framing shifts, turn the in-person and face-2-face moments of the narrative from a focus of trying to persuade the public (or the target market) that they have a conflict, to educating the public (or the target market) on what the impact of the story of the conflict is having on their personal relationships.
- For the public, there are moments inside of every disagreement, dispute, argument, or fight, where you seek advice, counsel, and direction in what to do, how to proceed and how to respond to other people. These are the moments to seek the blogs, videos and podcasts of professionals that can entertain, inform and advise—without breaking your story.
When the stories of disagreements, disputes, arguments and fights matters more than the disagreements, disputes, arguments and fights themselves, there will only be more, not less, and the moment for peace builders—and the public—to start talking the same language is now.
H/T to Justin R. Corbett for his thoughts on this.
-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: firstname.lastname@example.org