by Norbert Koppensteiner (Program Coordinator of the MA in Peace, Development, Security and International Conflict Transformation at the University of Innsbruck)
Koppensteiner’s workshop on Patterns of Communication in Conflict was focused on “direct communication” – or the face-to-face interaction. He also referred to other types of communication: Dysfunctional Communication Styles (Virginia Satir, one of the founders of humanistic philosophy) and Functional Communication Styles (Marshall Rosenberg). In two blocks (14:00-17:00 and 19:00-22:00), Koppensteiner worked with our participants, both theoretically and practically, in explaining what it means to have a successful communication, and in what ways we can convey that which we wish to convey.
Direct communication, according to Koppensteiner, is the greatest single factor contributing to conflict and its transformation. “The problem is not the problem” – the problem is our way of engaging and communicating in relation to what we think is the problem. Another important factor in this is that people are often not aware that communication processes involve the whole person:
We get to know each other based on our commonalities and grow together because of our differences. – Virginia Satir.
A prerequisite for a successful communication is awareness – of self, the other(s), and the context (in the here and now). Congruent (direct) communication occurs through the expression of that awareness via the matching affect and voice, which simply put means: knowing what you want to express and expressing that in every way of communication (tonality, body language, language etc.). Of course, that is not as simple as it seems. Human beings all too often do not know what they want because they lack the awareness of feeling, thought, our world. Awareness introduces a pause through which we can observe changes.
To illustrate this better, Koppensteiner performed a practical exercise – from walking in different speeds and directions, to taking a moment to relax with our eyes closed, and then expressing our thought and feeling in that moment through a “body statue” (shaping our body as we intuitively felt in that instance). This inspired a lot of reflection later on in the discussion – it was in these moments that we in fact felt aware, as well as realized the difference of that mode to our more common mode of being “unaware”. Koppensteiner then continued his workshop on direct communication with working in smaller groups.
His recommendation on becoming more aware: Vipassana meditation.