Contextual-Relational Considerations for Transforming Conflict
From Adversarial Interactions to Dialogic Relations
From Division to Co-Creation to Inclusion
This study presents a hybrid exploration of theory and practice to deepen the understanding and practice of conflict transformation. Three lenses are used to gain a complex, nuanced comprehension of conflict and its transformation are discussed. Conflict is also examined from a human developmental perspective as an opportunity for learning and growth and within the context of relationships where it is instigated, evolves, and potentially transforms. In this study, conflict transformation entails a shift from adversarial, hostile interactions to inclusive, dialogic relations. The first lens is a social constructionist theory that offers a critical analysis of the negative ramifications of an individualist ethos wherein the Self is dominant, and the Other is positioned as secondary, thus accelerating interpersonal divisions and destructive conflicts. These effects are confirmed by an enormous body of knowledge on prevalent defensive reactions and biases in the encounter with differences and conflicts used as the second lens. These undercurrents pose barriers to inclusive, dialogic relations. A third lens emphasizes the significance of social environments wherein the quality of relationships is being constantly shaped. Based on these lenses that uncover implicit cultural, social-psychological considerations, a contextual-relational perspective, compared to a typical individualist one, emerges for understanding and transforming conflict. Innovative, constructive forms of relationships wherein both Self and Other are valued and their interdependence recognized are vital for a higher human developmental complexity needed for effectively addressing today’s challenges. The study offers a perspective on tools for an ongoing reflective movement from Insight-increased consciousness to relational dynamics to Action- revised behaviors, and back for sustaining transformation. Contextual-relational practical considerations and models for transforming relationships are discussed in the last chapter.