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. Conflict is 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. Three lenses are used to gain a complex, nuanced comprehension of conflict, and its transformation. Conflict transformation entails a shift from adversarial, hostile interactions to inclusive, dialogic relations. The first lens is a social constructionist perspective that offers a critical analysis of the negative ramifications of a Western, individualist ethos wherein the Self is dominant, and the Other is positioned as secondary, thus reinforcing interpersonal separation, social divisiveness, inequality, and destructive conflicts. These effects are confirmed by an enormous body of studies on prevalent defensive reactions and biases in encountering differences and conflicts and is used as the second lens. These undercurrents pose barriers to inclusive, dialogic relations. A third lens emphasizes the significant impact of social environments on the quality of relationships. Based on these lenses that uncover underlying cultural, social-psychological considerations, a contextual-relational perspective that considerably differs from the typical individualist narrative emerges and can shed light on transforming relationships and conflict. Innovative, constructive forms of relationships wherein both Self and Other are equally valued are vital for a higher human developmental complexity needed for jointly addressing today’s challenges. The study advocates for the combination of Insight– increased consciousness to relational dynamics and Action-revised behaviors and practices for sustainable transformation of relationships. Contextual-relational practical considerations and models for transforming relationships are discussed in the last chapter.