Political, economic, and social differences inevitably create conflict, as do differences in ethnicity, gender, religion, personality, and style. Conflict exists on a local level within specific communities or interest groups, or it is national or international in its reach. We see conflict in schools and health trust governance, infrastructure development, housing policy and planning; we see it in labour relations, devolution of power to the regions, religious difference. And then there is the arena of international relations which foments some of the most dangerous conflicts we face on Earth.
Conflict arises when interests do not coincide. That is almost a banal truism. But it begs all sorts of questions. What are “interests”? How do people or groups perceive and evaluate their own interests? Are these open to examination and reframing? What do we mean when we say that interests do not coincide?
Reducing it to its most basic, an interest is generally a perceived need or want of some finite resource, and conflict arises when two or more interest groups compete for it. Competition is not the same as conflict but the difference is sometimes hard to pinpoint: it has to do with the felt experience of the need or want. One way of characterising it is that conflict is personalised competition.
Mediators have a vital role to play in these sensitive arenas, working alongside carefully chosen partners. Inevitably the work is sensitive and usually highly confidential. This work is a growing area of my practice and one that I am keen to develop further because my skills are well adapted to the multi-layered, team-based approaches that are regarded as the most beneficent.
If you would like to talk through a particular situation with me on a totally confidential basis, please call and I shall be happy to arrange a meeting.