Hanna Bakland was one of the participants of the Masterclass in Dialogue Facilitation taking place on the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue from April 22 to 26. Here are her reflections about the course:
To learn about dialogue facilitation is frightening. To be the facilitator is mainly about developing a room for dialogue. It sounds simple, but is very demanding in terms of self-knowledge and understanding of what a conflict is. I think my motivation was about learning more about communication. Communication is such a basic quality in life, yet there is such a lack of it. Why is that?
I have been fortunate to be the leader of the Dialogue Groups at the International Student Festival in Trondheim, (ISFIT) in 2015. Through this volunteer work, I established contact with the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue which recommended me and several others from ISFIT to apply for the Masterclass.
The role of the facilitator
My experience as leader of the Dialogue Groups is that communication, expectations and needs vary among those you lead and trying to meet all those expectations is impossible. What seems insignificant to one is deemed essential by another. It took a lot of time for me to understand that it was not my task to sort out all this, but rather let the individuals themselves define and formulate their expectations and needs. I believe this experience is in accordance with the role of the facilitator. A facilitator should facilitate and make space for dialogue rather than impose or complete the dialogue.
The Dialogue Groups have had seminars with Christiane Seehausen and Steinar Bryn from the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue. That gave me an understanding of the basic principles of dialogue work. I find it very interesting to see that each facilitator has adopted their own way of being a facilitator. Therefore, most of this course was new to me.
I learnt a lot. We have all experienced conflicts in one way or another and it is interesting to see that conflicts are not unique, but follow a recognizable pattern. Likewise, I always thought that my reaction to conflict was unique, but I have now learnt that my response pattern is just that – a pattern. Who we are as persons influences our behavior, and by getting to know that I have learnt to look for the complete picture of the conflict rather than just the part I myself witness.
I also learnt that emotions are more dominating in conflict situations than we think. Anger, by itself, does not necessarily mean that you are angry, but maybe that you are hurt, afraid, feel powerless or have unsatisfied needs. This is why it is important not to meet strong emotions with strong emotions, but make yourself responsible and look below the surface. It is very hard to do!
The most important to me was learning to map a conflict. In the process we learnt to distinguish the different elements of a conflict by using a tree as an example. What is the root of the conflict (the roots), the core of the conflict (the trunk) and the effect of the conflict (the branches and leaves)? To test this, we used a conflict from our own lives. Through that I learnt not only to distinguish these elements from each other, but also to understand that the root of my conflict not necessarily was the root of the other part in the same conflict. This was a whole new way understanding conflicts to me.
“It is all about me”
The hard part was to realize that “it is all about me”. That means that if you enter a conversation with an open body language, open questions and listening with your eyes, ears and heart, your conversation partner will mirror this. Good communication reflects good communication, and bad communication does the same.
I would suggest anyone to take part in the Masterclass. Perhaps the best part of the whole seminar was learning together with my new friends from Poland, Ukraine, South-Africa and Russia. We have continued the dialogue after the seminar!