Conflict Transformation Playbook
Volume 1

“Communicating Across Political Differences”

Are you tired of our divisive political culture? Are you worried about the absence of wise decision-making in democratic institutions?

Welcome! You are not alone. 

I’m Duncan Autrey, and I feel you. As a Conflict Transformation Catalyst, I am super frustrated, because I know it doesn’t have to be this way. We can disagree better. 

I’ve seen, lived, and taught the power of collaborative communication to heal, unite and mobilize communities. The Omni-Win Project is my effort to share the tools & ideas that can help solve the crisis of democracy.

We are co-creating the future, and it’s imperative that we learn how to communicate across political differences. we need both our sovereignty and interdependence to address the wicked problems that we face.  

This playbook will show you how to start.

1. Choose a political issue.

Frame it as a question or problem that most people would consider useful to answer or solve. Write it down.

2. Clarify your own perspective on the issue.

  • Consider your lived experiences, feelings, hopes & fears. 
  • Think about the role you play in the issue.
  • Try to identify what’s most important to you about the issue and why.

Before Proceeding: Find another person (or two) who is interested in the issue. Tell them you want to understand how they see the issue, and invite them to talk with you.

3. Listen to another’s perspective.
  • Ask your new partner(s) to tell you about their perspective on the issue. 
  • Use the question prompts, and the three “ARC of Proactive Listening” tools.
  • Listen (don’t share) until you both agree that you understand their perspective. 

Questions to Promote Understanding:

  • What life experiences have led you to feel the way you do about this issue?
  • In what ways do you think your perspective is often misunderstood?  
  • Where do you see complexity & nuance? 
  • What is your biggest hope and biggest fear around this issue?
  • What’s missing from the usual debate?

ARC of Proactive Listening 

Acknowledgment: Imagine their experience.
Validate their feelings even if you disagree.

Reflection: Repeat back what you hear.
Check to see if you got it right.

Curiosity: Ask follow up questions.
Show you care about their perspective.

4. Identify the key elements of the issue together.

Make a shared list of features of the issue using the four C’s:

  • Characters: (People, groups, orgs…)
  • Components: (Things, systems…)
  • Characteristics: (Qualities, features…)
  • Challenges (Obstacles, tensions…)
5. Discuss ways to improve discourse & communication around the issue.
  • What works (or not) in the usual conversation?
  • What kind of conversation is needed about the issue?
  • What other people & perspectives need to be included in the conversation?
  • What information will need to be included for a good discussion?
  • What principles and guidelines would improve communication around this issue?

Example Principles:

  • Inclusion. Every voice matters 
  • Direct Connection and Dialogue
  • Distribution of contributions & benefits
  • Informed public input on tough choices 
  • Dissent is a Gift 
  • Willingness is greater than Agreement 
  • Engage and enact the wisdom of the whole in service of the whole.
6. Begin engaging in the dialogue.
  • Revisit your initial framing and work together to find a question you both want to answer. 
  • Identify shared values and criteria that make make the solution agreeable to all.
  • Identify points of ongoing curiosity, that merit further information and inquiry.
  • Make a plan to continue the conversation.
  • Invite others to join you. 
7. Step into the game.
  • As a facilitator of deliberative dialogue, you hold the key to healing our political divide and generating wise democracy.
  • When you are ready to bring your skills to bear on our democracy, let’s talk:

Playbook Resources

1st Rule

The conflict is (usually) not about what it’s about.

There are underlying needs, interests, values and hidden motivations of the people involved. 

2nd Rule:

Everyone involved in the conflict needs to be involved in the solution.

People are in conflict because they are in relationship with one another. We can’t exclude or defeat those we disagree with, because, in the end, we all win or we all lose.

3rd Rule

The process of transforming a conflict is the same as the outcome.

The principles guiding a process will become part of the outcome, and
the outcome is simply an agreement to engage in a new process, which leads to…

…the 4th of the Three Rules of Conflict:

There will never be a final outcome.

Life is an ongoing process, and we don’t want to get to the end any sooner than is needed.
Don’t focus on what you want, instead focus on why you want it and how you want to be in ongoing relationship.
This is just the beginning.

Communication Skills


Observations: Consider your lived experiences with the issu

Feelings: Own your experience. Feelings are not opinions. Avoid hidden accusations (e.g.: “I feel ignored/attacked/left out.”)

Needs: Why is this important to you? What’s at the heart of it.

Requests: Ask for what you want. Don’t say what you don’t want. Requests are not demands. 


Acknowledgment: Let go of your ego and shift your attention to them for a moment. Imagine what they’re going through. Validate or guess their feelings (even if you don’t agree with their perspective).

Reflection: Repeat back what you hear.
Check to see if you got it right, and, if not, try again. 

Curiosity: Ask follow up questions.
Show you care about their perspective. Try to understand what’s most important to them. Show you care about their interests and priorities. Help them articulate what they want to see happen

About The Omni-Win Project

The Omni-Win Project is a multimedia effort to raise awareness of the myriad existing and emergent opportunities to improve our democracy and heal our political culture.

Our mission: facilitating the healing and evolution of our democratic systems and political culture, so that we can co-create a future that works for everyone.

Meet The Host

I am omnipartial: I am biased in favor of the success of everyone and the whole. I believe it is possible to improve systems of communication and interaction in ways that will allow humanity to thrive and evolve through our complexity and diversity.

My purpose in life is to support an omnipartial revolution. How? By helping the world understand the fractal nature of conflict and how we can transform conflict into a positive and inspiring experience. We are all in this together. I firmly believe we can do this complex dance through life with much more grace and beauty.

I am specifically committed to transforming how we work together in teams and organizations and how we experience conflict and collaboration in our democracy.

Fractal Friends

Duncan is also the host of the Fractal Friends podcast. An exploration of our self-similary across our diversity.

Fans of the Omni-Win project podcast will enjoy this collection of episodes: about Transforming Politics and Healing Democracy

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