This week, I went to an eye-opening talk by the wonderful Dr. Scilla Elworthy about how to foster dialog in times of austerity and hostility. Scilla eloquently illustrated how difficult it is to communicate with those that are totally alienated to us – ‘the enemy’.
Her hook was, that in times of Trumpism, far-right populist uprising and an increase in religious extremism overall, we cannot look away but we all need to do our bit in day-to-day interactions. This means that within our local communities we ought to foster dialog and to promote peace with the aim to counteract conflict early on. The ability to use dialog to avoid aggression and conflict altogether; or the ability to use dialog to develop strategies to overcome aggression and conflict. She calls it ‘ears to the ground and finger on the pulse.’
FQ – the Feminine Quotient
Another thing, Scilla spoke about was the ‘FQ – the Feminine Quotient’. A concept that I find very interesting as there are so many misconceptions prevailing. In fact, irrespective of our gender, everyone has masculine and feminine traits or tendencies. And it is not purely good or purely evil. According to Scilla, there are four key FQ traits that every human being should adopt and strengthen to develop more constructive dialogs. Being aware of these four key pillars, can help each one of us in conflict situations at work, at home or within us.
1. Compassion: The ability to understand the needs of the other person and truly being motivated to help fulfilling these needs. ‘Empathy’ and ‘compassion’ are often – incorrectly - used interchangeably. Prof. Dr. Tanja Singer who conducts Compassion Research argues that ‘compassion’ is a feeling that allows you to go into action; while ‘empathy’ can disable you as you are overcome by the emotions the other person suffers. The difference between ‘compassion’ and ‘empathy’ is essentially a different perspective. ‘Self-compassion’ as such is the ability to look from the outside on the inside and the current situation you are in. Being able to identify - without judgement - what you need and being motivated to fulfil these needs.
2. Inclusivity: Being aware of the power of inclusivity and fostering that even the most alienate positions / stakeholders are part of the decision-making process. A lot of anger, aggression and negative energy is caused when people feel excluded. So, if you run your next team meeting, make sure you promote an inclusive atmosphere where each one of your team members feels that his/her voice is heard in a non-judgmental way. ‘Inclusivity’ does not mean having everyone sat around the table, it means creating an inclusive atmosphere that allows each one to voice their opinion and concerns in a safe environment. Lip service alone, won’t work. This method also helps next time you are facing a conflict-prone encounter in your family or social environment. Remember that every human being has the right to their opinion, and while it is tough going sometimes, being inclusive removes one large part of potential conflict.
3. Listening: Most of us think, we are good listeners but actually we are not. Listening intently – the ability to repeat back what was just said and the feelings the speaker had – is a true art. Imagine two parties that have complete opposite points of view, but who both have the ability to do just that. This would instantly create better understanding and path the way for some common ground. Judgement is here an important point to address yet again. Our non-verbal clues – the eyes, the body language, our facial expressions etc. – give so much away. So you cannot fake it, until you make it. Your motivation to become a better listener needs to come from within, driven by love and respect for the other person.
4. Interconnectedness: Everything is linked or interconnected. Meaning, if you blow out negative energy into the universe, chances you get it right back are very high. You probably have had experience on that before, when the day starts bad and it creates a ‘chain of misfortune’. Luckily, it also works the other way around. Positive energy can create a ‘chain of good fortune’. But how does that work? Essentially, what we see, feel and think creates vibrations that people - and animals for that matter – can subconsciously sense and respond to. Our energy field, creates connections and triggers impact, if we want it or not. Being aware of the vibrations we send out, even before opening our mouth, is a very powerful skill. ‘People will forget what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.’
I do hope you find these four points interesting and as for my part, I am committed to make the necessary changes to improve my day-to-day interactions. Change comes from within, change are the tiny calibrations we make on a daily basis. Every new day, every new hour, gives you the chance to come closer to the person you want to be. I am following Scilla’s mantra of ‘ears to the ground, finger on the pulse.’
About Dr. Scilla Elworthy: Throughout her incredible life, Scilla has been involved in multiple peace projects and is a Councillor on the World Future Council. She currently specialises on the work of the Future Justice Commission, in particular the Guardians of the Future Generations initiative. Scilla was nominated three-times for the Nobel Peace prize.