Our new conflict resolution textbook has arrived! Click image for more info.
To help people better understand the role of language in conflict production, transformation, and prevention so that they may be more effective leaders.
More about Language & Conflict
Plato wanted us to consider that a world existed beyond our cultural understanding of it. In other words, he believed in a world independent of the words we use to describe it. For him, words simply referred to one another without necessarily corresponding to any objective truth or reality.
Whether or not Plato is correct about this objective world, the way we describe the world around us a very real impact on how we interact with the world. If we decide the world is dangerous, perhaps we stay home. If we interpret life as a brief opportunity, we get out there and start living. If we story our neighbor, boss, or colleague is a heartless villain, this affects how we interact with them and how they, in turn, act with us.
We may believe we are interacting with a static world "out there", but discover through this work that we are, in fact, the playwrights. If we want solutions to our problems, we need to look at how we're writing the script.
This also affects how we respond to social, political and environmental challenges. If, for example, we label someone a "terrorist," we make it quite challenging (and even illegal) to approach them and influence them. These labels also allow us to engage in behaviors we find abhorrent in peace time, behaviors like torture. Torture might seem a legitimate approach with someone so dangerous as a "terrorist." Name them something else and then torture becomes harder to justify. Remember that the Vichy regime in France during World War II called Resistants "terrorists." Today those French "terrorists" are called heroes.
The words we use matters. A narrative approach is not about political correctness, rather it is an approach to conflict that takes as a starting point the words we speak and the stories we tell about our conflicts and our lives. If we cannot change a conflict-story, we likely cannot do much to change the conflict.