tension and conflict

through dialogue

"Dialogue is a conversation with a center and no sides"

William Isaacs

"Dialogue provides a space for that which needs to be said to be said"

Myrna Lewis

“It is proposed that a form of free dialogue may well be one of the most effective ways of investigating the crisis which faces society, and indeed the whole of human nature and consciousness today.”

David Bohm

Our focus: transforming tension and conflict surrounding complex problems

Tension and conflict often surround complex problems. These problems differ from technical problems that can be resolved by experts or by following set methods. Read more about complex problems and the conflicts associated with them here. 

Dialogues is a small, mobile, non-profit company. We work together with others to find collaborative ways to manage and resolve tensions that surround complex social problems.

Read more about us, our partners, our clients and our experience.

The thing about complex problems

Society is a complex living system. Many of the problems that arise within society are complex. They contain many parts, there are different perspectives on what the problem is, there are many stakeholders. These problems are dynamic. They affect other problems and are in turn affected by them. What makes them particularly difficult is that, because they are unpredictable, managing them requires flexibility and constant adaptation. There are no recipes you can follow. 

Complex problems are best managed by involving all the stakeholders. These stakeholders have to collaborate. Collaboration, in today’s society, does not come naturally. Dealing with complex problems requires a particular kind of dialogue and facilitators or mediators with a particular mindset and skillset. 

Tension, resistance and conflict

Complex problems usually contain tension. The tension can be mild, characterised by resistance or conflict. Most conflicts escalate over time. As people or groups feel themselves more and more marginalised, excluded, ignored, not taken seriously or railroaded, the temperature will rise. 

Adding tension and conflict to the problems that are complex, makes them more difficult to deal with. Conflict is, however, only a symptom. It is an indicator that change is needed within a system or relationship. Conflict can be a catalyst for change and transformation if understood and properly managed. 

The problem lies in the the way we think

Society has always been complex. No part of society is isolated. Moreover, society is inextricably interlinked with the natural world and with the economy – both of which are complex systems in themselves. The problem is that we think that we can control this complexity by dividing it up into parts. We think that if we can put things in boxes and take care of them one by one, that we will solve our social problems. We create a false sense of control. While we can fix engines and build bridges and skyscrapers using this logic, we cannot create a sustainable society this way. We need to change our fragmented thinking. Dialogue well designed and executed can help us to acquire a more complete understanding of social problems and avoid the destructive conflicts that lead to even more fragmentation.

Dialogues support

You would like to include citizens and other stakeholders in the decision-making process.
But how will you do this in a way that works within the current democratic system?

Learn how we can support you in creating a strategy for inclusion and co-creative decision-making.

Read more

You need inspiration or want your group to develop a joint understanding of dialogue, social complexity, conflict, participation or collaboration.

Do you want to organise a seminar, a workshop or a talk and need a speaker?

Read more

You have a difficult meeting or a conversation you know will be tense.
How will you design this meeting and what kind of facilitation is needed? 

Do you need coaching support, help with design, clarity regarding facilitation or contact with a qualified facilitator?

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You want to use digital tools to enhance your dialogue and make it more effective.
How will you combine technology and face-to-face dialogue in an effective way?

You need a digital platform or digital tools that combine seamlessly with the face-to-face dialogue you need to build trust and deal with difficult issues.

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A conflict or debilitating tension has arisen.


How will you deal with it?  What will you do to prevent tension from developing into a destructive conflict?

Do you need a mediator, coaching support or simply advice on how to think and what to do? 

Read more

You want to train your staff in facilitation, dialogue design or conflict management. Or you might want to learn about these yourself.

Do you need a course or training that enables you or your staff to deal with complex societal problems and conflicts?

Central thoughts in our approach

Tension, resistance and conflict

Tension, resistance and conflict are signs that a system is in need of transformation.

When a group or individual feels excluded, not heard, marginalised or ignored, tension is likely to arise and escalate.

Treating a complex problem as if it were complicated or simple usually leads to an escalation of tension.

Conflict is like fire. It can be destructive – even kill. It is also what drives our machines, warms and lights up our homes. How we use it is what makes the difference. 

Conversations about deep-seated conflict often require a neutral mediator or facilitator to prevent it from getting stuck. 


Our thinking leads to fragmentation. This causes polarisation. Dialogue can help to move us to a place beyond fragmented thought.

Managing complex problems requires the collaboration of all the parties affected by it. Dialogue is a way of enabling collaboration. 

The question is not whether dialogue is necessary, but rather what kind of dialogue is required. 

Dialogue requires us to move beyond our fixed positions. 

We need to distinguish between consultation and information on the one hand and dialogue on the other. 

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