Peace Scholar Post: Notes on Nansen Dialogue Seminar by Alexandra Hjerpe

Here are a few of my notes after completing a wonderful week studying international relations, conflict resolution and peace studies at the Nansen Dialogue Center in Lillehammer! I hope that you find the information about dialogue—as a means of peaceful conflict resolution—to be both beautiful and relevant in your every day life.

Defining Dialogue

  • Dialogue is asking good questions
  • Dialogue is people in motion; moving, listening, not staying rigid; a change in the way you are thinking
  • Travel allows for the fluidity physically and mentally for dialogue
  • In dialogue, you make yourself visible so others may know you better
  • When dialogue happens, the honest and direct connection builds trust and builds relationships

 The Essence of Nansen Dialogue Approach to Conflict Resolution

  • When we live in segregation, we only have stories of our own that perpetuate an isolated narrative, our one story of truth
  • The images of others are shaped very, very early; when ideas of truth are cemented by those we love and look up to as protectors, guides, beloved (parents, grandparents, home community)
  • Always have coffee with the one that you plan to kill; and, have the coffee part first
  • Dialogue is not changing beliefs, not changing political attitudes—this is the common misconception and resistance—but dialogue is instead the changing of perception of the Other into Us
  • It is difficult in changing attitude, because when this comes home, you meet the resistance of the beloved who first formed your being
  • Dialogue is not a magical fix, but instead you realize, the other has suffered too in a very real way—and yes, maybe it is possible to try and see a common future
  • In order to practice dialogue, you need tolerance. This means you need to be able to listen to someone else say what you think is not true, or even opposite of what you think is true; you need to hear the emotion and logic of someone you see as morally unsound
  • The objective truth is maybe less important than the perceptive truth in dialogue; what is important is if the other believes that their opposite truth is true, and so do you with your own; nobody is being a liar, but each is holding on to what is viewed as reality, and this matters
  • It is critical to listen and hear what the other is staying first, be willing to understand what it is that the other is saying first, before anything else; you may have a different perception of reality, approach to thought
  • How can you really love or build democratic societies of equality with someone you see as morally unstable and less superior than yourself? You cannot, and history has showed us this. You must acknowledge a different sense of reality, history, truth with another and that they believe this to be the concrete truth, and see the equality of such perceptions
  • People seem to believe in their own, different truths; however, to conclude all truths are of equal weight and value is not right. This is a balance that must be measured.
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