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Disrespectfulness or civil courage?


On several occasions I have heard people say things along the lines of:

"That's none of my business."

"They'll have to take care of that in the family."

"It's not respectful to get involved in a conflict between adults unless they ask for it."

For those who express themselves like this, I guess respect, integrity and that people are free to choose when and if they want to receive support are important values. All of these, respect and integrity included are important for me also. At the same time, I am saddened when I think of the statements above, as I so often hear people relate to conflicts as “private”.

Better to act "once too much" than "once too little".

If no one intervenes when it is really needed, it is the idea of "the strongest person wins" that applies.

I've seen conflicts go on for years because no one, including me, has done anything to help people connect.

"If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem".

Many of us act as mediators in our everyday lives, without thinking about it. Thisincludes handling conflicts between family members, friends, or at work. We may listen, say a few words to intervene, help someone to express themselves so that the other understands, or suggests that someone who has not said much so far gets the floor.

The vast majority of people appreciate help them when they do not reach each other. Especially if we stress that we see them as experts on their own experience and we are not here to take over or decide what is best for them. Often I translate things that can create misunderstandings into something that is easier for everyone involved to hear. Sometimes it is enough just sitting in the same room can be a support for people who disagree. Presence of a third person often slows people in a conflict down a bit and helps to them listen.



But not everyone wants help, or at least doesn't know how to receive it when it is offered to them. If it is not clear to the parties that I am intervening to help them connect, they might turn towards me with frustration. If I, without asking if is ok, jump in and try to mediate a conflict, it can be perceived as a rebuke or an insult. It can stimulate shame that turns to anger that is directed towards me, even if my intentions were just to be of support. But most of the time - if the conflict is really important to them - they will hardly notice you.

For many, it feels unusual to hear their own words reworded. Although they realize that the reformulation is easier for the other party to understand, they may find it disturbing. It can be a challenge for an upset person to take in that someone wants to support them and is not out to criticize or to "take sides". Then we can show that we understand that it can be challenged to receive the support of a third person and that I want to help them connect.

Martin Luther King not only expressed the well-known words:

The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.

He also said:

"You are responsible not only for what you say, but also for what you don't say."

During peacetime, most violence occurs between people who have close relationships.

The most women (in Europe and maybe in most countries) who are murdered knew their killers. The killer is often a current or ex-husband or boyfriend. Violence is sometimes used as a means of exerting control in a private world without transparency. The media rarely pay attention to the violence that occurs in individual homes so we might believe it is not there.

All too often we defend our own inaction on the grounds that we 'respect the privacy of others'. When I realize how easily inaction is interpreted as sympathy, it becomes easier for me to choose to mediate even without being invited to do so.

Surely it is better to take the chance to protect someone, than to abstain for fear of not being received?

If you want to read more about this NVC-based mediation read my book a Helping hand

If you want to deep-dive into this art. There is a chance coming up very soon.

Our online mediation program



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