• by Daniel Erdmann
  • 2. November 2015

A misConception of Conflict?

Dear colleagues, it is my upmost wish and interest to share my thoughts regarding the origin, the handling, and the finalization of conflict – generally spoken: its nature. As far as I see, lots of concepts are communicated in literature and trainings throughout the globe. Many of them confuse me and make me wonder if we are seriously talking about terms that are commonly accepted and / or underlie widely confirmed definitions. Sure, it might be a major project to create common definitions that match with the understanding of people from all corners of the world – if possible at all. But it still might be worth to place a focus on this context and to discover the immense quantity of interpretations that offers the term Conflict itself, mainly based on our very personal understanding.

I believe that the understanding of a term such as Conflict, War, or Peace is based on the formed personality of each individual. The personality itself is formed by the sum of life experiences, the level of education, the social and cultural background, etc. All these fragments and many more, form the worldview of the human being and influence the mindset that is kept within and the mindset that is communicated and shared with the public. The worldview may be a perfect starting point in order to analyze and discover the individual diverse background and the different concepts that people may have regarding such topics in question and life itself. Such concepts spread from the core of the personality into all hemispheres of personal involvement.

Having the diversity of our professional community members in mind and believing in the good work of our activists, I still wonder: Who created such definitions that are widely used? Where did authors and trainers have the initial information from? Where did they get the confidence from in order to promote such concepts? What was / is the background of the individual who formalized it / them? Are we commonly using terms and concepts transferred by others without sufficient skeptical reflection?

These questions may force us to analyze if terms like Peace, Conflict, and War mean the same to all of us? Maybe this is the case in homogeneous cultures, but what if we skip from a ‘Western World’ to other homogeneous cultural or territorial groups and compare them? What about conceptual differences found in Middle Eastern or African Crisis Areas? I am thinking of zones where escalated conflict takes place for periods of several decades and where even complete generations are raised within an environment of terror? Are we all meeting each other on the same level of understanding and emotional involvement when we use such terms? What is the real impact of cultural and social diversity? For me, being in touch with students all over the globe, this is very relevant.

In order to find my personal and proper path towards a deeper understanding of the above mentioned term(s) – now focusing on Conflict only, I had to create a certain type of distance that enabled me to listen to some sort of inner voice, or that simply helped me to discover my personal conception. A concept that I feel comfortable with, that demonstrates a perfect, sustainable inner logic that grants transparency and discloses an unchallengeable value.

My personal reflection made me believe that first of all trainings, articles, and presentations should outline that a temporary and final definition of Conflict and similar terms stays with the individual itself. Terms in certain usage (trainings, presentations, etc.) may grant sufficient space to work with the corresponding personal concept of the terminology in question, and may enable the audience to link it up with their individual background. As a result, the channel of communication (training, book, presentation) itself has to grant sufficient flexibility in order to acknowledge the competences and the diversity of the audience. The WMO Mediation and Conflict Management Training may be an example of such a procedure as it does not share any definition of mediation but encourages the student to discover the core understanding of mediation individually.

Now, that we reflected on cultural and social backgrounds, it might be useful to state and share with you as much personal information as possible in order to enable you to understand my values as much as possible, and to lead you as near as possible to my personal point of view. Let us see how far we get without going into details. Due to the quantity of variables that create and influence the personal understanding of the term Conflict, I will not offer you a definition or anything similar but more likely share information on what I associate with Conflict. Such an association states that I believe that it is impossible to define Conflict but more likely describe it, observe it, and compare it. … (by Daniel Erdmann)

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2 Comments on A misConception of Conflict?

Pleased to see you are continuing your outreach with the World Mediation Organization.

    Dear Charalee,

    thank you for your continuing support and best wishes. It is an honor and pleasure to see you following the work, development and impact of the World Mediation Organization. I do not want to miss the opportunity to express my gratitude for sharing copies of your books: a) The Judgement Game, b) Can we save the human race? and c) Let’s play the game – to form part of the academic library of the World Mediation Organization. It is only because of supportive individuals like you, that a platform like WMO truly makes people connect to each other …

    All the best, Daniel Erdmann

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