On August 1 and 2, LLSP participants attended Dr. Amr Abdalla’s two-day workshop “Conflict Resolution.” Dr Abdalla started the class by encouraging the participants to share common assumptions about conflict. The class agreed that conflict is a situation where two or more parties have incompatible goals or interests that do not match. From the beginning, Dr. Abdalla stressed that conflict is not about eliminating one party’s interest. Success in conflict resolution is when we manage to deal with conflict more effectively and more peacefully.
Dr. Abdalla also discussed some characteristics of conflict, as it can show in varied and unexpected ways. Conflict may be manifest or latent, and while it can be destructive and harmful to communities, it can be positively transformative if dealt with peacefully. He also made the important point that no one wakes up in the morning thinking that they are the “bad guy,” and that effective attempts at resolution are the ones where we keep an open mind.
In the first negotiation exercise, Dr. Abdalla repeated that groups are not forced to reach an agreement, but that each participant should note what helped or hindered the discussion and that they should not be too busy proving the opponent wrong. If individuals can remember this, while also maintaining respect for the parties involved and their respective cultures, then conflict resolution will be a much easier, more constructive process.
Next, Dr. Abdalla walked the class through the importance of understanding the interests behind each individual’s position. Parties can get stuck on what they want from one another, but underneath that there are interests, which explain the reason behind the parties’ demands. Conflict resolution works best when we try to understand the needs and interests of the other party. He mentioned real life examples of conflict resolution, such as the Bangladesh and Pakistan conflict, where a war resulted from conflicting interests of independence and unity, and the European Union, where a community succeeded in their dedicated and concentrated effort to develop a method for resolving conflicts peacefully.
On August 2, Dr. Abdalla delved deeper into the five conflict styles, which include the competing style, the avoiding style, the compromising style, the collaborating style, and the accommodating style. The participants identified their own styles of conflict resolution and then split into groups to for a new series of role-play activities in which they could utilize their unique skills and work on their weaknesses. Dr. Abdalla classified the different methods of decision-making by parties involved in conflicts, recognizing the potential benefits and challenges of each method.
He then broke down different approaches to conflict resolution into three styles: professional approach, empowerment approach, and the common good approach. The best approach for any given conflict depends on the desired outcome of the parties involved. However, depending on the history, culture, needs and wants of each community, some approaches are more useful while others are more appropriate.
Dr. Abdalla then incorporated the idea of conflict mediation, and the methods and principles that should guide conflict mediation. Mediation is similar to negotiation, except that in mediation there is a third party who helps clarify opinions without influencing the final decision. This might be preferable over negotiation when the values, principles and interests being discussed are difficult to talk about. This is a beneficial approach even during soft negotiation when the opponents are friends.
This two day workshop on conflict resolution equipped our LLSP class with a deeper knowledge of their conflict styles, as well as with the awareness of what facilitates or hinders resolution. The participants can now apply their newfound skills in their own communities, using Dr. Abdalla’s tips on how to engage in conflict intervention in the just and ethical way Islam teaches.