Words can kill

“You can use Net-Map to get a better understanding of and maybe even negotiate positions in conflicts.” That’s something I would say in a talk… and be delighted to discuss afterwards, what the potentials and limitations of this method are. People who work with violent conflicts have warned me – and rightfully so – that in some situations words can kill and you wouldn’t want to start mapping and thus visualizing the interests of different groups during a complex violent conflict. Especially because you don’t want to expose your interview partners to revenge of those who disagree. With my middle-European background, I use the term “conflict” for a lot of social situations that are not violent and not physical and I was basically proposing the use of the method in this kind of situation (as in “conflict in your work team” which normally isn’t resolved by shooting each other).

On the other hand, it might be possible to benefit from knowing Net-Map when working with violent conflicts as well… Especially in long lasting complicated conflicts, it might help to organize one’s thoughts and understanding and to develop new coalitions for peace, if one mapped out everyone involved. And indicated, who has the goal of continuously spurring the conflict and who aims at supporting peace making efforts.

This might be a solitary exercise you undertake in your own office, to disentangle your complex and contradictory knowledge about the conflict. Or there might be points in a peace making process, where a group of people maps something together. Whether or not that is possible and useful is something to carefully consider. And that would be the job of someone who is not only an expert in conflict moderation in general but also has an in-depth knowledge of the specific conflict at hand and the actors involved.

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