Language in Conflict

Roy Lewicki

Professor of Management and Human Resources at Ohio State University

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

A: I just came from a discussion that I left upstairs, in which we were talking about gaps in the field. One of the gaps was that people who believe in conflict resolution generally have liberal values. Basically they are committed to a principle that most conflicts are resolved. When you look at a number of other groups in our society that are more politically and religiously conservative, they don't share a commitment to conflict resolution. They often share a commitment to domination, to winning, to control.

Q: in the name of justice?

A: In the name of their definition of what is right, what is fair or whatever. Whether we call it religious extremism, political extremism, or fundamentalism. Extremism is a word I am using from my value base to describe their value base. That is a framing issue. I have immediately chosen polarizing language to talk about that difference. Language is instrumental to all of this. If we are going to change what people do, we first have to figure out how to talk to each other in a way that we really do understand each other and believe that there is a real commitment to try and understand.