Conflict Circles

Conflict Circles allow you to build coherence between and among parts of the system. We have adapted this model from the work of Landmark Education to support engagement across differences to help clarify perspectives and assumptions. That level of clarity clears the way for open, productive dialogue and work.


In any event where people are present to observe and participate, each person walks away with his or her own version of the truth. It cannot be helped. When you see something happen, you interpret it through the filters of feelings, experiences, understandings, and assumptions that frame your own world view. Because each person brings a unique world view to any interaction, the stories about that interaction will be varied and numerous.

So What?

The reality of conflict circles is that you have to be clear about your own reality and story before you can stand in inquiry to hear and understand others perspectives. First, you consider what you believe to be true, and separate what is verifiable evidence. Then you become aware of the stories you are telling yourself, which may or may not be true. You note the patterns. How are your reality and story the same? How are they different? What stories might the other person hold? How are they the same? How are they different? Are there facts that need to be reconciled?

All this reflection happens on your own, before you engage with the other person. In your reflection, you consider what are the real questions that will help you understand more deeply and productively? Working through these kinds of questions can help you negotiate the turbulence that emerges at the points of difference.

Now What?

Use Conflict Circles in your next sticky issue to:

  • Get really clear for yourself what is fact and what are your assumptions and perceptions about that fact.
  • Get really clear on what others think, see, and feel about the conflict.
  • Take wise action to find a generative space for moving forward.

Related Resources

August 15, 2013 HSD helps you "make sense of the mess" that is the chaos of your life. Consider how the challenges and opportunities are the same or different from each other. Consider what differences really matter in your life. Consider your perspective. Consider form and function. Consider the impact of time. Watch this lively discussion of how these kinds of questions can help you make sense of the chaos in your life.
February, 5, 2015 What fundamental assumptions sustain conflict? What alternatives can HSD offer for seeing conflict in new ways? How can it help us imagine opportunities for peace? What would it mean to take effective Adaptive Action to shift patterns toward health and wellbeing for people, families, and communities? Join this inquiry and move toward your own Adaptive Action for peace and justice.
Peace emerges over time when individuals and groups follow a short list of Simple Rules.
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