Safe Spaces

Wallace Warfield

Former CRS Mediator, New York and Washington, D.C. Offices; Associate Professor at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University

[Full Interview]


How did you diminish tension between very hostile parties?


I don't know. I guess there were a number of different techniques. One way would be to actually bring people into a forum where they could hear what the other person was saying, absent of the kind of rhetorical flourishes that would often-times take place in the other forum. So, in one situation in that midwestern city I mentioned earlier, the local militant, who was given to walking into the City Council chambers and completely disrupting the City Council meeting, but had to be escorted or carried out by the police that, and activities like that, defined who he was in the minds of the white establishment, which created a certain amount of tension. So what we were offering was a different forum for him to be heard. The response was, "He's going to act up. "Well, you've got to trust us that he's not going to take that particular stance. And then that's your job, as the intervener, to assure that that doesn't happen, to a certain extent. So, often-times you'd hear things: "You never told me that before. "You never gave me the chance to talk to you like that. When you start hearing that dialogue, you can start pulling out. I mean, you can start literally pulling yourself out of the triad. They're talking to each other; they're now talking from the heart about what they didn't say to each other, over all of these years that they could have been talking. "I didn't know you felt this way. "Well, you weren't listening. So, that's one way. CBMs are another way Confidence-Building Measures. It's another way of doing it: "So, demonstrate to me that you're serious about making some change, and then I'll respond. Typical in the international arena, but Confidence-Building Measures can also be demonstrated in local, domestic issues as well. So that's another way of doing it. The classic building-block approach the whole way you build trust.....