Deetz & Simpson (2004) argue that “the struggle of our time is to build the practices of working together” (p. 141). The element of building a cosmic fraternity underlies to some extent the force driving the process of globalization. Striving to create a mutual interdependence is the greatest challenge characterizing the type of relationships among individuals or groups in today’s world. It expresses two approaches either objectivists or subjectivist in this semantic couple ‘cooperation-competition’. Some people find themselves in this ambiguous situation of cooperating for the sake of safeguarding relationships or competing for saving their interests.
In the process of conflict resolution, the troubleshot question is ‘which action is preferable to undertake in order to resolve, to transform or manage conflict? Some may prefer to ignore, to minimize, and to avoid acting in accepting to live with the issue; others seek for a cooperative orientation or integrative solution such as an agreement, mutually beneficial solutions, or mutual understanding through dialogue, negotiation, mediation to handle “peacefully” the issue. Others can choose to compete by either using threats of force, or by excluding the other group or by sanctions to save their interests.
For the sake of a social coexistence, the integrative solution is likely to be the most useful mechanism and action to deal with conflictful situation through interactive conflict resolution. The latter is defined as a process “involving small-group, problem-solving discussions between unofficial representatives of identity groups or states or states engaged in destructive conflict that are facilitated by an impartial third party of social scientific- practitioners”( Fisher, 1997, p. 8). It is“ a face-to-face activities in communication, training education, or consultation that promote collaborative conflict analysis and problem solving among parties engaged in protracted conflict( Fisher, 1997, p. 8). This definition refers to some extent one of the tools of conflict resolution namely dialogue which aim at achieving mutual understanding among parties.
This paper seeks to give an overview of dialogue as a tool of conflict resolution and through that asses its values through some authors. The first part of this paper will explore a theoretical framework and assumptions which cover the core aspects of dialogue. The second part shall discuss how one can define dialogue and its objectives. The third section will focus on the three areas of understanding dialogue including methodologies, procedures, strategies, and typologies. And the finally section will provide a comparative analysis between dialogue and other alternative dispute resolution. The paper concludes by offering a critical argument in an attempt to review some limits of dialogue.
There are three dominant positions on dialogue (Deetz and Simpson, 2004). The first position is the liberal humanist perspective which emphasises a normative interactive ideal founded on principles of understanding; empathy and active listening (p.141). This approach aims to find common ground as the basis of the co-existence within a society. The second position is the critical hermeneutic orientation and it is basically philosophical oriented (Gadamer, 1975, 1976) and (Habermas, 1974, 1989,). This position shifts away from an emphasis on private internal meanings and posits interaction rather than on the merely psychology of individuals as the focus of negotiation (Deetz & Simpson, 2004, p.142). It aims to understand how individuals relate to objects and interact with their environment. Finally, the third model of dialogue relates to the postmodernism, although its origin relates to the post-structuralist thinking of scholars like Bakhtin (1981), Derida (1973), Foucault (1970) and Levinas (1969, 1987). It “emphasises the role of indeterminacy and “otherness “in claiming conflicts, resting closure and opening new opportunities for people to be mutually involved in shaping new understanding of the world in which they live and work” (Deetz & Simpson, 2004, p.142). This approach is more ethical scheme and dialogue is the scheme toward social responsibility through a joint effort.
Saunders (2009) suggested three perspectives or advancements to assess the impact of dialogue. In the first perspective, dialogue covers a broader area of conflict. The second perspective expands the political paradigm of state-centred or government –centred as the only player of conflict resolution. Here state-actors do not play major roles in the process of conflict resolution. The third perspective states that dialogue is the continuous political and social process necessary to change a political or social environment or transform social relationships (p. 383).
The second perspective of Saunders (2009) frames dialogue in such a way that it sounds like Track II diplomacy in the sense that it justifies the interaction among individuals or groups that take place outside an official negotiation process. Thus while Tract I refers to all official governmental diplomacy, bilateral or multilateral. Track II describes all other activities that occur outside official government channel. (Kaye, 2007, p. 5). This linkage between dialogue and the unofficial processes suggests this transfer from the realist paradigm where only states are actors to a situation where non state-actors take up the central role in dialogue and conflict resolution. As a result, the area of conflict resolution has become a subject of academics talk, among representatives of all parties to the conflict for mutual understanding. It aims exploring dimensions of the conflict out the agenda of negotiation. J. Burton came up with the concept of “controlled communication’ serving as prenegotiation or circumnegotiation which could be used in any intervention in the interactive conflict resolution as pre-step or post-step of other alternative dispute resolutions. Under this idea lay the assumption that people do not negotiate over their human needs basics, unmet human needs but dialogue can offer a space to talk for and discuss the common good of the society. Thus it offers the possibility of creating the “ultimate target” that every party shares as the reason of their existence. Similarly, the concept of intercommunal dialogue implies “an interchange and discussion of ideas, especially when open and frank and seek for mutual understanding of harmony” (Fisher, 1997, p. 121).
BROADER UNDERSTANDINGS AND OBJECTIVES
Several contributions are given to understand the core value of dialogue.
The first relates to the notion that considers dialogue as the process for transforming relationships. According to Saunders (2009):
Dialogue is a process of genuine interaction through which human beings listen to each other deeply enough to be changed by what they learn. Each makes a serious effort to take others’ concerns into her or his own picture even when disagreement persists. No participant gives up her or his identity but each recognizes enough of the other’s valid human claims that he or she will act differently toward the other (p. 82).
Saunders makes a quick difference between dialogue as a process and dialogue as communication. As a process, it aims to offer to parties involved in a conflict situation a common ground of discussing and transforming attitude, beliefs and interests (Saunders, 2009, p. 376). While as communication, it refers to the normal way of living, our ordinary life. The way people interact directly, cooperate and collaborate in any conflict situation.
In his book, Talking to the Enemy, Kaye (2007) sees dialogue as the process when and whereby adversaries set down and talk about a long-standing conflict while violence and mistrust continue to define their security relation (p. 1). In this case, it aims to transform the image of the adversary or humanize the ‘other’ thus it leads to new relationships conductive to the resolution of deep seated conflicts (p. 3). The outcome of a such process aims to reduce tension, confidence building, and the formation of a common identity or a common goal among the parties involved to frame and approach problems in similar ways. Additionally, it aims at addressing policy problem in effort to analyze, prevent, manage, and ultimately resolve intergroup or interstate conflicts (p. 6). It seeks to establish ‘better image’ of the enemy for the allowance of good communication in exchanging views, perceptions and information among the parties to improve each sides understanding of the others positions and policies (p. 6).
Deetz & Simpson (2004) focuses more on the interactive value of dialogue which they consider to be a free and open interaction guided by the ‘subject matter’. From their perspective, dialogue is a “transformative process which values the productive (rather than reproductive) communication process likely to catalyze radical transformation” (Deetz & Simpson, 2004, p. 144). Open interaction seeks to break down the status quo and move towards achieving a new vision and a positive attitude. It is a continual social formation of consensus in interaction beyond the intentions and opinions of the participants so as to arrive to a consensus. Dialogue implies more than a simple ‘back-and-frothiness’ of messages in interaction; rather it points to a particular process and quality of communication in which the participants ‘meet’ to change and be changed. Such approach is similar to Anderson, Baxter, & Cissna (2004)’s approach which holds the view that when in the process, “we do not know exactly what we are going to say and we can surprise not only the other but even ourselves” (p. 1). Therefore, it is in the end of such process that the parties can come to an understanding of what underlies their misunderstandings.
Taylor (2004) refers to dialogue as a human interaction and it is communicative. As communication, it searches for the sustainable organizational ‘co-orientation. The co-orientation is about arriving at, and maintaining compatible A-B attitude to x which is the ultimate aim or ideal. In this process of communication, attitudes turn off, prejudices become a co-orientation within two prospects including subject-to-subject and subject – to- object linked to each other by their aim of common object. It is a communication which performs the essential function of enabling two or more individuals to maintain simultaneous orientation toward another as communicators and towards object (p. 127). The A-B-x system is about how A and B manage, coordinate, mutually understand, and resolve x. This forms a triadic puzzle of I-You and You-I which implicates reconciliation and matching of point of view (Newcomb, 1953) for a human interaction. There is an interaction or a conversation when there is respect of basic rules for the rotation of speaking. “Two people are having a conversation when we see that the stream of their interaction has the character of sequence of coordinated actions” (Taylor, 2004, p.128) and this will lead to the translation where “how ones person’s attitude translated into those of another” for A-Bness and similarity in difference when similar object drive their attention.
Dialogic process have also been fruitful in protracted social conflicts (PSC) (Azar, Jureidini, P., & McLaurin, 1978). PSC is a situation where the humanitarian value basis such as communal identity, satisfaction of basic needs of security, recognition and distributive justice are the underlying causes of the conflict and cannot be compromised. In this specific context, the aim of dialogue is not to transform attitudes or relationships, but at least to reduce the intensity of violence. Fisher (1997) noticed that the central units of analysis in protracted social conflict, racial, religious, linguistic are not negotiable (p. 5); therefore only “controlled communication” can offer a common ground for discussion.
Finally Burgess and Burgess (1997) turn out some ways that dialogue offers to conflict resolution: learning from other group, encourages the formation of and linkage with other dialogue groups, collect, reinvent, or generate creative ideas that might contribute to a solution if the procedures, preconditions and strategies have been followed carefully.
METHODOLOGIES AND STRATEGIES
Dialogue is an interactive game with rules and tactics. First of all, it requires forums (place for occurrence) and voices or parties. For Fisher (1997), dialogue can take the form of strategies such as the sensitive training, family therapy, academic seminars, decision –making seminars, reconciliation meetings, and problem-solving workshops. It lies on some strategies, factors, rules and principles.
For Deetz & Simpson (2004), dialogue depends on three factors: The context –situatedness (environmental reference), objective or target, and the language or the way of using it in the interaction. The success of dialogue depends on the preconditions concluded by parties to have “genuine conversation” (Gadamer) or the “ideal speech situation” (Habermas). It needs common presumptions made by speakers and listeners based on ‘what our society will be and what kind of people we will become in this dialogic process’ (p.148).
Deetz & Simpson (2004) inspired by Habermas (1987) suggest four basic guiding conditions for free and open participants in negotiating differences:
- The attempt to reach understanding presupposes a symmetrical distribution of the chances to choose and apply speech acts. It requires having minimal conditions of skills and opportunities for expression.
- The understanding of the external world needs to be freed from privileged preconception in the social development of “truth”.
- Participants need to have the opportunity to establish legitimated social relation and norms for conduct and interaction.
- Interactants need to be able to express their authentic interests, needs, and feelings; they should be free from various coercive and hegemonic processes by which the individual is unable to form experience openly, to develop situation competing identities, and to form expressions presenting them.
Later on, Saunders (2009) argued that the success of dialogic process is based on a genuine openness:
I do not know, while talking with you, selectively tune out views which I disagree, nor do I busy myself marshalling arguments to rebut you while only half attending to what you have to say, nor do I seek to reinforce my own prejudices” I fully take your view point, engaging with it in the deepest sense of the term. You do likewise (p. 378).
It implies that each of parties internalizes the other’s views to enhance mutual understandings and to widen his own perspectives. To reach this goal, the process of dialogue comprises three steps including socialization of the participating elites, ‘filtering of externally generated policy ideas to the local environmental, and the transmission to the official policy which is the level of the decision making and policies’ implementation. The socialization encourages different groups to accept differences among them and in enhancing all their policies in contributing to build a common goal, thus cohabitation is possible among them for a better understanding of their mutual threat perceptions. It targets the elites who have access to official policy makers. Filtering facilitates the process of making other peoples’ ideas your own in supposing that their world is possibly better that your own, and transmission is based on the mechanisms of publicizing and implementing the policies with the officials.
For Fisher (1997), a sustainable dialogue must proceed by some steps that facilitators have to follow. Firstly, facilitators discuss their psychological contract so as to create an open and honest problem-solving approach. The second step is during the meeting; listening each group defining its preferred solutions, and third gathering information to clarify why each side prefers its solutions. That is crucial because the listening session will help in discovering the basis of misunderstandings (p. 124). From there, facilitators have to create new perspectives and solutions by providing the multiple options to reach the ultimate goal. An evaluative step has to come up with this scenario of shifting the process from the ‘focus function’ which has pinpointed the crucial elements of the conflict to a ‘flexible function’ which brings in variety and creativity: shifting from a static point to a dynamic or flexible perspective.
Nigel (2010) suggests four goals: a) Transforming cognitions in mental process of comprehending, understanding, and knowing; b) Transforming emotions such as anger, rage, hatred, fear, grief, dialogue provides the space for people to express their emotions; c) Brainstorming strategies for actions as an exchange of information and an exploration of beliefs and assumptions; d) Strengthening civil society in offering public space in which citizens interact, work together common problems, build the social capital.
TYPES OF DIALOGUES
The type of dialogue depends on the units of analysis. It can be parties or subject matter. Rothman (1992) in Burgess and Burgess (1997, p. 98) suggest four types: a) Positional dialogue in which parties sit down and turn on the debate rather than on a free discussion. It opens an adversarial atmosphere where no one can listen to the other side and stand in opposition. b) The human relation dialogue occurs when parties are really disposed to cooperate and collaborate. It breaks down fears and dispels stereotypes; hence develop trust, friendships with people from the opposing side. c) The activist dialogue takes place where people opposing sides accept to seat together and are united in collaborative effort for a common interest. d) The problem-solving dialogue is a situation whereby opposed parties are brought together for developing a common definition of their problem, and eventually to come up with a joint solution, discuss freely in presence of facilitators what makes them fight one another.
In some intractable political conflicts, the clash of discourses can lead to a situation whereby parties hold their position and stand for a radical agreement. Ramsbotham, Woodhouse & Miall (2011) suggests that in order to break down the radical agreement, facilitators have to shift from the perspective of mutual understanding to the radical argument as the subject matter. That type refers to the agnostic dialogue defined specifically as the dialogue of struggle, dialogue between enemies. “It lies at the epicenter of linguistic intractability” (p. 377). Parties can’t listen to each other therefore there is no new alternative production. Other types of dialogue have been mentioned such as policy dialogue, study cycle, transformative citizen’s diplomacy (cf. Nigel, 2010).
In relations to the specific “subject matter”, we may refer to the interethnic dialogue where different ethnic groups in the same community, divided for specific issue such as land, political participation, social exclusion or ethnic cleansing, decide to seat and discuss for the common good of the society. The interfaith dialogue is about beliefs and values between devotes of different religions which choose to talk about how their differences and diversities of conviction can converge to a mutual understanding for the sake of a durable peace. Similarly the intercultural or cross cultural dialogue seeks to reconcile cultural beliefs and heritage to build a mutual understanding for a peaceful coexistence of the society.
DIALOGUE, MEDIATION, NEGOTIATION
It is not easy to give a specific difference between dialogue, mediation and negotiation because of the fact that those mechanisms can in some extent be complementary in the whole process of conflict resolution. However, some technical differences can appear and be looked at in different levels of analysis namely the role of the third party, objectives, and outcome.
Fisher (1997) discusses the difference in the role of the third party, the facilitator for dialogue and mediator for mediation and negotiation. The facilitator is different from the mediator. The facilitator focuses on the design, the organization not on the substance. He limits himself to regulating the process rather than making substantive suggestion what a mediator would do. A Facilitator works also usually with parties face-to-face; the mediator frequently relies on caucuses with individual parties and even shuttle diplomacy to bring about agreement.
Difference can lay on the legitimacy and formality of conflict resolution. Lederach (1997) & Saunders (2009) will place mediation or the negotiation in Track One diplomacy which is more official and reconcile states or government where a structural agenda is followed to save and safeguard interests with an agreement to settle on, while dialogue will follow under Track Two diplomacy and involves unofficial parties, non-states player with an incalculable value to the peaceful resolution of differences for a mutual understanding to produce new lives in transforming attitudes and perceptions. Saunders (2009) claims that “the currency of negotiation is defining and satisfying material interests through specific jointly agreed arrangements. “The outcome of dialogue is to create new human and political capacities to solve problems” (p. 38). In this perspective, dialogue is precondition or prenegotiation to prepare the ground for formal negotiations or mediations. Similarly, Fisher (1997) assesses that dialogue is prenegotiation or paranegotion process to supplement the success of mediation or negotiations. That implies it can intervene before the process or after the process to either prepare parties to reach a desirable agreement or to enhance the desirable agreement for further social transformation.
However the positive outcomes discussed, dialogue has limits that we need to underline. The limit is based on the theory of basic human needs when it comes to non-negotiable needs and to conflict identity. It is not easy to reach a common ground of understanding
If dialogue is undertaken as a problem-solving strategy approach two limits can be noticed a) The Re-entry into societies of those who attended the problem-solving workshop is sometimes considered as treason or betrayal (Esra, 2005, p. 576), mostly in case of protracted conflicts. b) Dialogue in problem-solving workshop is perceived as unofficial process therefore there is a problem of transfer: there is a lack of impact on the overall intergroup relations and conflict in general transmission to official leaders in term of decision making and implementations.
Also, in the case of deeper structural form of violence such as genocide, war or dialogue is counterproductive to conflict resolution. It is difficult to convince all the parties to seat and talk about what constitutes their differences.
The ADR has produced such result that no one can deny. In fact, in each step of alternative dispute resolution, dialogue deserves the most important place. The value of dialogue in this process is over any form of justice, equality, equity, or agreement. It is more about social responsibility through an ethical approach that an individual has regardless of his fellows. It is not only transforming sample groups of the society, but the entire society and building relationships where people can leave together.
In Christian perspective, the concepts of ‘imago dei’ give the fundamental principle and attitude of the social interaction. Each person is a reflection of God since all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God. Thus, all human beings deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. In this way, dialogue can find its justification as this bridge to access other’s needs and interests in building the perfect social coexistence. It offers this opportunity of a shared inquiry, a way of thinking and reflecting together. Its changes attitude through the process of listening which is the fundamental concern of dialogue; this can be understood as the way to build trust, equality and identity (Saunders, 2009).
The role of dialogue is to break radical statement and progress towards reaching a resolution. It becomes a tool of conflict resolution in this frame work of seat-talk-listen-internalise for understanding, transforming, comprehending… the entire social structure.
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