“Poland is witnessing conflict situations, polarity between different social groups and a preference for force-based solutions. These are difficult times, and the development of social dialogue can be a great support in the prevention of further divisions,” writes attorney Karolina Szulc-Nagłowska.
This blog post is written by mediator and attorney Karolina Szulc-Nagłowska. In the spring of 2019 she attended dialogue training in Wasaw, facilitated by the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue and the telecom company Orange Poland.
It would be fantastic if we could encourage people to talk to each other and to try to understand their positions, but too often people are blind to different points of view. I believe that dialogue, if we start it, will show people that we all have similar needs, and that we can live peacefully together. We need to end violence and polarization.
On a day-to-day basis, I deal with conflict and search for ways to resolve it. I am an attorney at law, so I am approached by people who seek support in crisis situations and I help them find solutions through law.
However, such a solution is always imposed by a third party – the court, and sometimes that solution lacks flexibility. Moreover, it doesn’t lead to understanding the other party’s position and, above all, the adversaries are reluctant to implement it.
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Courts should be addressed only after extrajudicial paths
This is why, despite my profession, I strongly believe that courts should be addressed only after extrajudicial paths have been exhausted. Some time ago I became interested in mediation and acquired the mediator title at the Supreme Bar Council. I was also registered on the official list of permanent mediators at the District Court in Wrocław.
Therefore, I was very interested to hear about the method of conflict resolution through dialogue. I couldn’t wait to attend the five-day training session enabled by a coach from the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue in Norway.
My curiosity had a personal background, too – I’m a mother of three lovely urchins and our everyday life provides a lot of situations which require quick recognition of the interests of all parties and finding solutions. (Even if it is about who reached mom first).
Our perspectives and perceptions changed
From the very beginning of the training, the atmosphere was creative and inspiring. The coaches, Christiane and Chro, gave us an opportunity to get to know each other – 25 people from different parts of Poland, from different backgrounds and with varied involvement in conflict-related situations.
We soon realized that we had a lot in common. Above all, we were all open to other people, we could listen and ask questions: “What is your favourite book?” and “Who do you perceive as an authority?” served as pretexts for very intimate and interesting conversations.
It was also a great basis for cooperation in the coming days. It was amazing how close we grew, how many personal stories we heard, and how much our perspectives and perceptions changed.
The conflict mapping was inspiring
The form of the workshops – no fixed groups, the necessity to talk to new people – gave us a unique chance for intensive immersion in the dialogue method, “field training”, constant practice of new skills.
The conflict mapping session was particularly inspiring. It concerned a conflict selected by a member of the group. We focused on actual situations. Within the groups there were people involved in the cases we worked on.
It was incredible how from one stage of a task to another, we found new perspectives, learned to perceive more details, chances for compromise and different intentions behind comparable situations.
Looking beyond the ego
After one of the tasks, one of the participants whose conflict we dealt with, said with tears in her eyes: “I never realized we put X in such a difficult situation – I’ll apologize to her when I come back home.” It shows the importance of talking, of trying to understand each other, looking beyond one’s own ego, from a new perspective, or even perspectives.
The “onion-method” was very appealing to me: discovering the real background of the presented opinions, what stories and events lie behind them and, what needs must be actually satisfied. After this part of the training, I had an important reflection that deep inside a human strives for their own well-being and sense of security. Intentions are usually good, but sometimes they are not well expressed and they can be incomprehensible to others.
Development of the social dialogue can be a great support
In our country we have recently witnessed stimulation of conflict situations, the antagonization of different social groups and a preference for force-based solutions. These are difficult times and the development of social dialogue can be a great support in the prevention of further divisions.
During the training, Christiane told us about a session where people of extreme nationalist opinions were able to move beyond their learned prejudices and see the other party as: people! Don’t be misled by appearance, this was a huge step which required a lot of work and time. But it could be done. This is what I hope for and believe is possible in our country, too. We heard many similar examples and they gave us hope for change and energy to act.
Karolina Szulc-Nagłowska is a mediator and attorney with 20 years’ experience. She is a specialist in dispute resolution and legal support in crisis situations. She has worked for international legal fims includng Baker & McKenzie and Clifford Chance.
The Nansen dialogue work in Poland has been on-going since 2016, in cooperation with the telecom company Orange Poland. Christiane Seehausen from The Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue was one of the initiative takers. Today Chro Borhan is also responsible for the training courses.
The Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue has more than 20 years of experience in developing methodologies, and supporting dialogue projects in the Western Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kenya, Ukraine, Norway, Poland and other countries. The Nansen Center provides capacity building on dialogue, with training, seminars and workshops on dialogue, and is located at the Nansen Academy in Lillehammer, Norway.
Published: December 18th 2019