Map rules

While ECM symbols point to relational and not to regional realities, there are still some basic rules that we take from geographical maps for reading and using the ECM map:

1. Maps are only an incomplete attempt to represent reality; they are not the reality of the represented, but the representation of reality. Conventions and reading habits determine the suitability of the symbols used. When a map user understands the corresponding language of the symbols, then it offers him/her help for orientation in reality, in this case, not physical or geographical but mental. The same is true for ECM, where the symbols are helpful for analyzing the conflict setting and also as guiding help for the conflict intervention.

Likewise, just like in geography different maps of the same landscape can be composed pending on the interests, perspective, objectives and available methods, in elicitive conflict mapping also an array of maps can be composed of the same conflict. Each map would be appropriate pending on the user, whose creativity in the handling of the conflict is decisive for the meaningfulness of the instrument. Because of this, there is no final ‘correct’ conflict map in elicitive work.

Nevertheless, if the map that is drawn is not suitable for the conflict, it can create a series of difficulties for intervention, not the least for the conflict worker him/herself who might not be able to facilitate correctly an intervention and, moreover, an unsuitable map can also have undesirable effects on other persons, e.g. the parties themselves.

2. One of the basic assumptions of elicitive conflict transformation is that the elicitive worker is part of the system in conflict. This means that the elicitive conflict worker does not look at the reality of the conflict on the map, but is in the real landscape. This is the reason why, in praxis, it is not possible for the elicitive worker – who has become part of the conflict – to have an overview of the totality of the conflict.

3. Maps reduce a three-dimensional reality to two-dimensions. Thus, the representations of maps remain distorted even if colors, contour lines and similar aids attempt to compensate for this. The conflict worker needs to be aware of such distortion. 

We find even more parallels between the art of mind mapping and the art of elicitive conflict mapping as working method:

  • Active listening: elicitive conflict work starts with a respectful, attentive and open attitude in the encounter with the other. Here it is fundamental to avoid judgments and mixing one’s own stories and interests with those of others.
  • Organization: that which has been heard needs to be organized, structured and interpreted. After the listening, the conflict worker needs to allot enough time to transform what has been perceived into truthfulness, and also for contemplation, relaxation and recovery of the own energy.
  • Centering: after the material has been organized, what follows is the thematic and personal centering of the conflict worker, the formation of his/her personal perspective before the action.
  • Acknowledgement of the parties: resonance with the conflict parties is crucial in systemic and elicitive conflict work. Therefore, the conflict worker needs to know the parties, which comprises technical and factual knowledge. He/she furthermore also needs to acknowledge them as persons, which goes beyond knowing and entails openness in the encounter. This implies that the elicitive conflict worker needs to strike a balance between expansion and preservation of the self, which is a skill that might not be innate, but can certainly be developed with awareness in peace training. 

ECM Mindmap