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Communication and Conflict Newsletter, Issue 16 - Peacemaking=Resolution or Suppression of conflict?
May 19, 2009

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Peace Making?

Peace making - Conflict Resolution or Conflict Suppression?
(....Or how, when 'peace making' is the 'agenda' it can mean avoidance of the issues, suppression of the conflict and not support of its resolution ........)

Alan Sharland

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Hi Everyone!

Welcome to Newsletter no.16 - May 2009

OK, so I said last time that I would write about the Rescuer Syndrome this month. But you know how sometimes the feeling isn't right, the inspiration isn't there, and something else slaps you in the face so hard you can't ignore it. Well, this month it is 'Peacemaking'.

I've always resisted describing my role as a mediator as being a 'peace maker'.

This is mainly because I am not the 'maker' of any particular outcome when I mediate, the people I'm mediating are the creators of their outcome and my practices always aim towards ensuring that is so.

But also, I have a difficulty with the idea that resolution of conflict is necessarily the same as 'peace'. Sometimes it is energy and vibrancy and activity and new exciting beginnings and expression. Peace isn't the word that would fit. For me anyway. Of course, as with all depends what each of us understands a word to mean.

If peace means contentment, creativity, openness, awareness, presence, energy, learning, growth....then those words 'click' with me for peace.

But if peace means no-anger, no-shouting, no frustration, no confusion, no....problems! then that is, to me, an interpretation that symbolises fear of conflict.

Such an interpretation does not allow an acceptance that conflict is inevitable and will always exist, and always has done, and that what is important is that we learn how to respond to, face up to, engage with conflict constructively, creatively and with openness to its possibilities.

Guide to Principles of Effective Communication and Conflict Resolution

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At Hillingdon Community Mediation where I work,(May 2009 - now work at CAOS Conflict Management) we mainly provide mediation for neighbours in dispute. In these situations, many issues of dispute lead to feelings, thoughts, actions of anger, frustration, confusion, paranoia, obsession, depression, resentment, fear, aggression....etc....

These are like a boiling pot of responses that need expression and direction in order to come to some form of clarity, for the energy from that 'heat' to become creatively focused towards a new way of responding and for new insights to be gained.

Suppressing the expression of those emotions, as can often be attempted when 'peace making' based on fear of conflict, is an agenda for the conflict resolution practitioner involved, leads to a temporary lid being placed on the boiling pot.

Often this is because the conflict resolution practitioner (and this could include 'unofficial' practitioners such as friends, colleagues, parents, etc.) is fearful of conflict and the emotions that arise from it and sees the main response to be to avoid expression of the emotions. For fear of WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN!

Quotation Corner:


It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work.

It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.

If someone has never gone there with a conflict and allowed themselves to express their frustrations and anger and fear and vulnerability, then it is likely that they will, if involved in supporting conflict resolution, try to suppress the conflicts that exist between others. To 'keep the peace', to 'calm things down', to 'pour oil on troubled waters'.....

But, if you leave a pot boiling and just put a lid on it, it will soon boil over, usually more violently, more explosively than if, instead, the lid is left off and the fire underneath is attended to.

When we are willing to look at what is fanning the flames, what is adding fuel to the fire and what can be done instead to reduce the heat, to prevent the contents of the pot burning and tasting awful, then we are supporting the resolution of conflict. We are enabling the heat to leave the situation, in its own way, through our supporting its 'venting'.

Recommended Books

Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success in Work and in Life, One Conversation at a Time by Susan Scott.
The title speaks for itself but the content goes much further. The use of 'blame' is explored as an inhibitor to effective communication and conflict resolution. Right on with that Susan! And with Principles such as 'Master the Courage to Interrogate Reality', 'Come out from Behind Yourself into the Conversation and Make it Real', and 'Take Responsibility for your Emotional Wake', you can guess it is a fearless journey into how to have conversations that really count as it says on the back cover.

We are not trying to force the lid down, using ever more ingenious ways of securing it, using more and more power and resources to resist the release of the heat inside.

We are supporting conflict resolution and conflict transformation, not conflict suppression, conflict avoidance.

When peace making is about suppression or avoidance of conflict it is ultimately self contradictory. It is an avoidance of the reality of a conflict's existence without an attempt to enable its resolution.

Again, the conflict resolution practitioner has to look to themselves and their own thoughts and motivations in responding to a conflict. As has been said often on the Communication and Conflict website:

The practices of effective communication and effective conflict resolution are more about self-awareness than about techniques or 'strategies' for changing or 'dealing with' others.

And that's great news. Because it's impossible to change others, but the possibilities for changing ourselves are infinite. And we each have the power to do so.

  • Seeking to control or change others in a conflict is conflict suppression and conflict avoidance. It doesn't work.
  • Seeking to control or change ourselves in a conflict situation leads to conflict resolution. It does work.
  • Effective support for conflict resolution empowers people to find ways of controlling or changing themselves. It doesnt' try to do it for them through 'advice' and suggestions. It supports them through listening, summarising and creativity-generating questioning.

Effective resolution of conflict means:

  • Acknowledging our own capacity to resolve our disputes and conflict situations with others through considered or 'mindful' communication
  • Taking responsibility for our responses to conflict whether constructive or destructive in their effect
  • If you like what you are reading and you think other people would too, please Send this Newsletter to them for their consideration.

  • Not depending on others to suppress our conflicts for us
  • Not seeking to suppress others' conflicts for them
  • Losing our dependence on others to change but instead to look inward to reflect on and reconsider our own perspective and response to our difficulty.
  • Losing our sense of helplessness and victimhood
  • Finding the power and creativity that mindful communication provides to enable us to successfully connect with others

...............and that may not always look like peace making.

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E-books from the Communication and Conflict website....

Listening, Summarising and Questioning - The Simple, Effective Skills of Conflict Resolution

Click here to find out a bit more about these skills or purchase the booklet now for $3:

Buy Now

Free e-book - Contemplations on Communication and Conflict (click the link to download)

This e-book is an archive of some of the early observations and anecdotes I have written for these newsletters, but now collected together in a free downloadable e-book, my aim being to make them more accessible than for you to have to scan through various web pages to read them.

Please remember.....
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Consultation via Skype.

Would you like:

  • Conflict coaching to support you in a difficult situation to find more effective ways of responding?
  • Mentoring, if you are a Mediator or other conflict resolution practitioner, to support you in reviewing and developing your practice?

If you have Skype and would like to arrange a consultation, please go to the Skype Consultation page to send me details of what you would like to discuss and proposed times to call me.

Skype to Skype calls are free from anywhere in the world so there will not be any telephone cost, just the fee for the consultation which is a fixed charge per minute.

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Some links that you may find interesting...... by Stephanie Goddard - a website very much in line with the thinking of this site. Stressed Out at Work AGAIN? Work Stress Is NOT Caused By -Your Difficult Coworkers - Your Diet - Your Lack of Time...So What Causes Work Stress? Stress is caused by only one thing....the way you think. Stephanie has 2 great books: 101 Ways to Have a Great Day at Work and 101 Ways to Love Your Job is an excellent resource of information relating to mediation. There are articles, links to websites and blogs as well as the possibility of locating mediators in your area. - is a comprehensive guide to information about Self Improvement, Personal Growth and Self Help on the Internet. It is designed to be an organized directory, with articles and references to thousands of other Web Sites on the World Wide Web. is a rich source of information, quotes and support to enable us to find and be true to ourselves.

Oh Wow This Changes Everything is a great site with an enormous number of links to articles about different aspects of effective communication and conflict resolution. Definitely worth a could be there for hours! helps people, like yourself, create change in their life and business. They share fun stress management strategies and personal development articles.

New This site is sooo full of great links and resources relating to Co-operative Communication skills - I would very much recommend it.

Learning Supersite is a fascinating site dedicated to the development of informal learning. "A new approach to learning, the Learning Supersite is a venue that provides personal learning community, but with state-of-the-art Web technologies."

Transforming Conflict is an excellent organisation which works with young people, and adults, in educational settings, promoting restorative approaches to conflict.

Aik Saath This is an amazing and interesting website, quite besides the work of Aik Saath that it promotes. Aik Saath works to promote conflict resolution skills in young people and the development and support of racial harmony in Slough, UK and its surrounding areas.

Would you like to build your own website?.....this is how I built mine... I Love SBI!

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