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Through and beyond conflicts via body language

Last weekend I went to a course about conflict resolution, based on the DRACON model. (DRAma CONflict) This method has been used in projects in different countries with connection to research.

All of us people gathered on the course were drama teachers which was a good starting point; we “spoke the same language” and had a common reference ground. Many exercises and tools were familiar to us already. Since drama was the main method we used body language and frozen poses most of the time. Everyone familiar with the “drama language” would admit that expressing emotions and ideas using the body, is more efficient then words. However, it sometimes hits you just how strong the non verbal language really is!

Take this image for instance that I’m carrying with me ever since the course. We were asked to make a frozen pose expressing a conflict between two parties. Person A takes the first position, showing he/she is in an immediate conflict, and person B makes a counter action to that, in a frozen pose. Person C is then being given the task that he/she is the mediator and is asked to rebuild the statue from changing only 3 poses. The opposite of the first image or at least to rebuild the statue where a diminision of the conflict can be seen.

One of these statues touched me more than the other ones. Person A stood holding person B's shoulder (as if to attack the other one physically) and person B made a face as if screaming. Then person C went in to change it so that A instead touched his/her own heart and the head was being tilted to one side. It certainly expressed something totally different! The effect was immediate!

What was interesting to hear just after the shown statue, was how these people witnessed of them being changed 'on the inside' as well. It’s hard to remain angry/having an angry look while leaning the head to one side. This is a theme I’ve returned to many times now; change on the outside, physically, will make something to the inside. And vice versa. (These themes I've written about in mainly Swedish blogs, but a good reference is Amy Cuddy, social psychologist and researcher, famous also for her TED talk.)

It is clear to everyone watching these conflicts, that it isn’t going to be as easy as just moving a hand or turning a head when it comes to real life. But something has happened on the inside and it is a reminder to not let the usual pattern happen and to perhaps stop the usual circuits of the brain via the reptile brain.

Empathy with oneself and the other person in the moment isn’t going to be the only thing that helps you forward in these situations. Courage to be vulnerable and training over and over will be needed in order to come in contact with the cause behind. (Often deep needs that have to be acknowledged.)

Not even when we train regularly will it be enough. Sometimes we will fall back. But we got to start somewhere and to start with small things such as changing your body language is a good place to start. To create awareness in the situation and breathe and find a still point within. Small physical changes can perhaps remind you then how to unwind and reduce your own anger and instead reach that place where you get in touch with your and the opponents pain.


kroppsspråk på kursIn a different exercise where one person tells something really important, one person is instructed to listen with optimism and interest. The other one is dismissive and annoyed. The body language shows quite clearly these two different approaches.

Petra Skogsberg

Written by : Petra Skogsberg

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