Elicitive conflict worker’s training

ECM worker and communicationBecause of the qualities of elicitive conflict transformation as method and transrational peaces as philosophy, the training of elicitive conflict workers requires different and subtler personal skills than prescriptive approaches. At the MA Program in Peace, Development, Security and International Conflict Transformation in Innsbruck, we place special emphasis, among others, on personal contact skills and communication styles.


Elicitive conflict workers require abundant sensitivity and an alert mind, in addition to sound preparation. This preparation consists in adjusting oneself physically, psychologically, mentally, and spiritually to the work, and recognizing one’s limits and boundaries. A conscious balance between dedication and boundary assertion is required. In Dietrich’s work (2013), we find several clues as to those requirements that it might be necessary to meet in order to affect the conflict system in a positive manner and reestablish the dynamic equilibrium of the system. Here, we could summarize those skills in a simple ABC:

  • Awareness of the own physical, emotional, mental and spiritual limits:
    • Awareness of the own personality
    • Awareness of the surrounding world (context)
    • Awareness of the own fantasies
  • Balance between compassion and self-protection
  • Congruent Communication

From this it follows that the personality of the conflict worker is placed in the focus of attention. We consider the ‘peace worker at work’ as a balancing factor, yet she/he is also nothing but another element, a ‘third party’ of the conflict, which is understood here relationally as a dysfunctional social system. This means that a peace worker can never be neutral or non-partisan, but in the best of all cases all-partisan. This requires high awareness of the Self, of the surrounding reality in the field and of the concepts of one’s own mind in order to not get lost in fantasies, pre-established concepts and values but be able to resonate with the parties’ statements, behaviors, feelings, needs and requests.

20 central virtues

Elicitive conflict transformation has its roots in humanistic psychology, from where we borrow the characteristics of self-actualizers presented by Abraham Maslow (1970). Following Dietrich (2014), we enlarge Maslow’s characteristics with an intercultural aspect and list them here slightly modified as 20 central virtues of elicitive peace workers. 

Elicitive conflict workers:

  1. perceive reality efficiently and tolerate uncertainty and stress;

  2. accept themselves, others and human nature for what they are;

  3. are spontaneous, natural and genuine in thought and action;

  4. are problem-centered and need little praise and popularity;

  5. are able to concentrate intensely and have a sense of constructive humor;

  6. are benevolent, empathic, patient and concerned for the wellbeing of others;

  7. do things creatively even if they do not possess great talent for them;

  8. are able to take or leave conventions but are not purposely unconventional;

  9. are independent, self-sufficient and autonomous;

  10. appreciate simple and commonplace experiences;

  11. establish satisfying interpersonal relationships, friendship and love with a few people;

  12. have a certain need for privacy and solitude;

  13. are democratic and unprejudiced;

  14. hold strong ethical standards, though not necessarily in a conventional sense;

  15. are capable of detachment from their own culture;

  16. can take or leave cultural conventions;

  17. are able to compare cultures without judgment or blame;

  18. refine their energies and qualities constantly;

  19. treat conflicts as constructs of the mind and not as objective facts that could be fixed with appropriate remedies; they know that conflicts can (only) be de-constructed in the mind of the parties (human beings);

  20. know peak experiences: feelings of ecstasy, wonder and awe, the loss of placement in time and space.

Elicitive conflict transformation, thus, has a lot to do with courage: daring new tasks and methods and risking failure; not being afraid to express one’s thoughts and feelings and risking to be unpopular with them; combining narrative elements in an unconventional or unexpected way and wind it up with humor; accept intuition as a legitimate aspect of one’s personality, which does not necessarily have the same communication pattern as reason. Elicitive conflict workers share a drive to find order in chaotic situations, the interest in finding unusual problems as well as means and ways of transformation, the ability to make new connections and challenge traditional assumptions, the ability to balance idea creation with testing and judgment, the desire to push the boundaries of their competence and they are rather motivated by the task itself than by external rewards such as money, grades or recognition. Yet, even if playfulness and intuition are a good start for conflict work, it is also good to be equipped with a toolkit of tested methods and to be structured from the beginning in order to be flexible when the unavoidable surprises of conflict work appear.

Some of those crucial methods involve communication. While a few useful tools are mentioned in passing in the different parts of the mind map, here we want to dedicate a special place to:

NVC puppets