When I arrived in Lillehammer, I knew little of what the next six days would bring. From the brief description I’d received, I expected to learn about the theory behind dialogue, meet new people, and develop a broader understanding of conflict around the world. Dialogue, I thought at this point, was a great tool for resolving difficult conflicts and transforming mindsets. I wasn’t sure what role it could — or should — play in my own life and political culture.
The workshop in Lillehammer certainly met these expectations. From my conversations with fellow participants, lectures, and experiences, I quickly became familiar with the utility of dialogue as a means for peace-building. Most importantly, however, my time at the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue helped demystify dialogue, demonstrating its value in daily life.
One experience in particular goes a long way to represent this shift in thinking. All participants took part in a simulation in which we were grouped together by nationality. The exercise was deceptively simple: each group formulated a series of questions and took turns asking and responding to them. In reality, however, these responses turned into a series of stories, revealing not only the necessity of dialogue on an international level but on a local one as well. It was a remarkable opportunity to hear personal answers to questions typically reserved for political jargon and objective analysis. Our responses were all unique, rooted in personal experiences and different identities. I realized how little I knew about my fellow Americans as well as participants from other countries.
In the polarized political environment of today, we spend lot of time talking about issues and arguing with each other be it in person or on social media. In the midst of this frenzied political debate, little time is left for listening and trying to understand another person’s lived experience. We — and the world — would all do well to incorporate dialogue into our daily lives and with it bring humanity back into politics.