This Is Our Reality

As I watched an interview carried by a popular US media house, I was struck by the calmness of spirit demonstrated by a citizen whose country by all media reports, is being attacked. I speak of the conflict between Israel and Lebanon that shows no sign of abating. What had me transfixed was not only the appearance of calm but when the young woman serenely said, “this is our reality”.

Retrieved from Google Images, 7/12/2014

One’s reality is shaped by their experience and we cannot challenge the lived experience of another. Unfortunately in many interactions we attempt to do so and fail to practice reflective listening to get to the truths. We interpret each others stories as threats to our identity and values. We constrain ourselves with the idea that there is only one narrative and thus miss the opportunity to engage others about their own experiences of a shared phenomenon.

So the young woman’s response to the rockets and bombs that assail her community, although frightening for those of us who have never experienced it, highlights the painful fact of acceptance. The statement “this is our reality”, conjures up the idea that she and thousands more know nothing else.  History influences the future and in my attempt to understand the conflict, I am urged to look at how the past continues to feed the conflict.

Although my interest continues to be organizational conflict, I have developed an interest in culture and conflict across the globe. With themes like genocide, refugees, ethnic cleansing, racism and many others dotting the media landscape, persons trained in conflict analysis and resolution will be in demand. Universities across the world have seen the need to create programs to not just create awareness about the discipline but to challenge its students to become architects of change.

Where does conflict not exist? How do you define conflict? What is your preferred style when dealing with conflict? Does the way we communicate impact on conflict? What tools are available to you when dealing with conflict?

Deutsch (1973), in his definition captured below, reminds us that conflict emerges where there is interdependence and the participants will  take steps to protect their own interest.

A conflict exists whenever incompatible activities occur . . . one party is interfering, disrupting, obstructing, or in some other way making another party’s actions less effective.”

In pursuit of their goals the actors will assume behaviors and attitudes that may help the process or create more tension that pushes them farther away from the desired outcomes.

Conflict is that “white elephant” in the room that we pretend not to see. But by ignoring the symptoms we are in fact fanning the flames for results that will have direct and indirect costs. Develop a conflict audit and map the major challenges to historical data. Visualizing the chain of events which has contributed to the debacle is one way to help the participants to the challenge acknowledge their role.  Another positive outcome is the possibility of co-creating new paths to obtaining their interests. For many, this is a timely exercise and may be rubbished for more expedient options. Imagine the costs if not attended to with the appropriate response!

Our world continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Unfortunately, in the 21st century we have not matured enough to embrace diversity, forgive the transgressions of our ancestors and move towards creating the kind of future that will see collaboration as the vehicle for meaningful change.

© Suzette Henry Campbell 2014


Deutsch, Morton (1973). The resolution of conflict. New Haven CT. Yale University Press.

Peace Studies (Universities)

Note: The list of Universities above is purely for information purpose. This blog is in no way advocating the strength of their academic programs. The provision of the list is to help those with an interest in Conflict Analysis and Resolution progress their research for the best fit.



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