The social panorama as the peacemakers power tool.
Suppose that you are out one night alone, gazing at the heavens…And this inspires you to imagine how it would be like standing on the moon looking back on earth… You are not the first person who realizes the relativity of existence that way. It works to get yourself wondering… And soon fundamental questions will come to mind… What is happening up there on that bleu ball? Isn’t life anything more than a brief blooming of a planet? Or, just an explosion of molecular complexity? And how long will that process continue before it all disintegrates?
And you remember some answers from newspapers or television. Didn‘t scientist predict the sun to become a red giant in four billion years, that will incinerate everything? It will turn green and blue into rocks and dust. Dreadful! But you find comfort in the idea that this is far off in the future. But than you remember a program on Discovery Channel… Gosh! There it was told that near by exploding stars may cause such scorching, way before that. It may happen right now! Oh my goodness! And one wonders… Who were we? Where did we come from? What has become of us? What was my place in this all?
Mankind probably increased to contemplate its existence 70 thousand years ago, when a giant volcanic eruption in Asia brought us (and many other species) on the brink of extinction. Thick ash clouds surrounded a frozen world in the middle of an ice age. It caused an enforced natural selection. Only those individuals reproduced that were bright enough to find food, warmth, shelter and mates. We had to find the balance between competition and cooperation. We had to bang each other on the head and at the same time create strong bonds to cope together with the icy darkness and food scarcity. This helped to make us the smart bunch of apes that we are today.
In fact it would be logical to celebrate our collective survival every day. And to be grateful and happy about still being there… But such jubilation is not everyday practice for most of us. We live in a world of plenty. However, many people live as if they still struggle with one another in the cold and the dark. It all comes to natural selection if one wishes to see it that way. That is why there are conflict coaches.
When all people were in a state of wonder, love and gratitude, conflict would be none existing. For a conflict coach this practically means that he only needs to help his clients to connect to the level of spirituality and cosmic contemplation. Make them feel themselves to exist in the middle of an eternal universe. And let them resonate with all life. The such aroused feelings of ore, universal love, cosmic harmony and bliss do not combine with anger. If your boss refuses more payment; this is futile in the light of the big bang! Or when your neighbour parks his car on your spot again: you just smile! Because you know that territoriality is part of our species. Isn’t it great that you are both in possession of a functioning body? A conflict coach may help his clients to remember that they are fragile short lived beings in an immense and merciless universe. That life is just a spark. And thus, bosses and neighbours are just tiny sparks too: pieces of reproducing DNA on their way to oblivion. Why quarrel? Because since the end of the ice age, people never lived longer, felt more secure and enjoyed more health. Work was never as clean and safe and well paid as it is today. Conflicts? No… Go with the flow man… and stay out of trouble… Forgive others their wrong doings… There is no reason to fight... enjoy your short life… In fact in ages of political and religious repression people are often kept from revolting by occupying them with the spiritual. In the middle ages, conflict coaching was clergy mans work. Things have changed a lot ever since: but when you search the web for conflict coaching you encounter many church oriented practitioners.
Conflict coaching is supporting people involved in conflicts. This assistance may go in any useful direction: from the preparation for confrontations to the learning of new responses to disputes; from the mediation between parties to the backing up of one of the quarrelling camps. Conflict coaching is primarily aimed at the reduction of loss. It does not take an in dept survey, to see that conflicts are the most costly things in business. Every organization loses money, production quality, goodwill, human capital and motivation as a result of conflicts. Conflicts seem to be mankind’s favourite way to spill energy, money and blood. However, conflicts also mobilize creativity, solidarity and reorganization. Conflicts are a manifestation of natural selection: most species battle about territories, food supplies and mates. Conflicts also forward the quality of life. That is why conflict coaching does not only aim at preventing losses, it also helps to optimise conflict raised opportunities. Conflicts must be turned into new views and insights. Conflicts bring people at a higher level of existence, when they are properly solved.
Conflict coaches need tools to accomplish that. Primarily, aid to people in conflict may come from any outsider with an objective view, who is taken serious enough to be listened to. This is true, simply because people involved in a conflict become short sighted and blinded by emotions. They can be called conflict crazy! Often they cannot think any further into the future than the next confrontation. People in conflict may become paranoid and see things only in a way that strengthens their position. Neutral outsiders may look further ahead, undisturbed by jealousy, hatred or anger. So part of a conflict coach’s success is depending on his ability to keep his cool in the vicinity of combat. But for a professional conflict coach keeping cool is not enough.
Social psychologists have been studying human conflict for decades. They came up with several models that help to predict conflict behaviour. They clarified the structure of escalation and de-escalation. And a history of wars and political struggles provided insight in the tacit rules governing disputes. They provided us with insight in how conflicts come and go and come back again. Researchers also worked on strategic models to enable mediators and negotiators to know how to handle debates. Like the Thomas-Kilman conflict mode instrument. The Harvard negotiation project. Windslade and Monk’s narrative mediation. The conflict dynamics profile. And alternative/appropriate dispute resolution. Logic, argumentation, polemics, rhetoric and the use of metaphors are the subjects that assist trained professionals in verbal confrontations. The NLP tools of meaning reframing and slight of mouth are further contribution in the same line, with a high level of practicality. These interventions for changing values and beliefs significantly enrich a conflict coach’s repertory.
A conflict coach may make use of any psychological instruments, which helps to empower his clients. NLP offers quite many: the circle of excellence, logical level alignment, the hierarchy of criteria, the forgiveness pattern, core transformations to name some.
But none of the existing tools focuses as accurate on the conflict relationship as the social panorama does. This tool helps to clarify the mental images people create of each other. How do they envision the other party so it keeps them angry, mistrusting or envious? The social panorama clarifies the social images that underlie the attitudes of animosity. Knowing this is extremely helpful, because this unconscious social imagery decides about relations and the way people interact. In the social panorama literature this is summarized as: representation dictates interaction. But the unconscious nature of these pictures makes them difficult to access. Techniques from imagination therapy and hypnotherapy help to bring the critical social images into awareness; just enough to analyse and change them.
So a conflict coach uses the social panorama technology to change social images. And a changed social image implies a changed relationship. Within the framework of the social panorama model we are primarily talking about single sided changes. Most often the coach works with only one of the parties. However, in instances where the coach also operates as mediator, he may help two persons changes the pictures of each other simultaneously.
The social panorama reduces the complexity of human relationships by focussing on one of the most critical factors in social imagery: the location in mental space where an image is projected.
The major discovery, that helped to create the social panorama, was to notice the critical role of location in social representation. In his book Social Panoramas, Lucas Derks explains why mental space is so important for relationships. Anyway, it can be proven at all times: When people move social images to other locations, this will instantly change the meaning of the relationship involved.
Conflict coaches need to be able to change crucial social images that are laden with intense emotions. This may demand considerable skills. The social panorama techniques to turn hatred into neutrality are among the most important. Very often conflict coaches also need to change general social reaction patterns, to help clients to get some peace into their conflict thorn lives. Some people do have personalities that lead them from the one confrontation into the other. To change that, the coach needs to deal with reaction patterns that developed very early in life; that have to do with the structure of the family of origin. Fundamental changes start there. We may call that changes on the level of identity and personality. The social panorama techniques make such changes possible.
The social panorama is the right tool for monitoring and changing human relationships. It is based on neuro-liguistic programming, social cognition theory and hypnotherapy. It also combines elements of social systems therapy. The brief nature of the social panorama interventions makes them suitable for all forms of coaching, but in particular for conflict coaching. Also, most of the mediators of the future will be conflict coaches too; because mediation is just a too limited spectrum to really do the job.
For conflict coaches the social panorama can make a great difference. It is the ideal instrument for peace making.
By way of illustration, try this exercise:
1) Think of a person with whom you had a debate. Remember details and focus on your feelings of anger.
2) Close your eyes and find out where you notice the image of this person while still feeling this anger.
3) Move that image until it is at three metres on the left of you: with the eyes 5 centimetres below your own.
4) How does this affect your feeling of anger?
5) Find the optimal location for the image of that person; so you are able to talk with a neutral or positive feeling.
The complexity of problematic relations will challenge the coach to understand more patterns and techniques. The social panorama research started in 1992. The accumulated knowledge and experience can be at your disposal when you take a course or a workshop. The social panorama model can make your work as a conflict coach more effective and more enjoyable.