“How Can We Make Dialogue more Attractive & Accessible?” Thinking Together with Olga Liapis-Muzzy
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- Conflict is neutral and an opportunity to fortify connections & relationships.
- It’s important to be open to taking responsibility for one’s own role, having forgiveness and letting go of blame to solve conflict.
- Conflict is time intensive and mediation takes time so it is important to address conflict as problems arise and before a point of total unrest.
- The earlier we try to resolve conflict the less harm that can be done.
- It takes both sides of the conflict to come together to make a solution.
- Every solution will have a consequence and may lead to more problems because conflict is inevitable.
Click here for the transcript
Duncan Autrey: Olga, thank you so much for talking to me. I’m really, I’m just excited to have one of our conversations and just share it with a bunch of folk as well. So
Olga Liapsis-Muzzy: it is such a pleasure to be here with you Duncan. I feel like I have so much fun every time we talk.
And so this is it’s just a total pleasure to be here with you and hello to the listeners from the future who are joining us for this conversation today.
Duncan Autrey: Yeah. Welcome everyone. So this one, we’re trying to do something a little different than because our work we’re actually colleagues and we’re like very much in a similar place.
And so instead of me just trying to get out of you, you know, what’s your cool idea for the future and how do we fix it and all these things I wanna do, like a thinking together conversation. And to explore a question that both is interesting to both of us and, and maybe see what new ideas we can come up with in real time and during this conversation.
So as colleagues, we’re both part of the DePace initiative, the democracy politics and conflict engagement initiative, and where we are bringing conflict literacy skills to organizations, and that are trying to make change in the world. And we met you through being part of an organization that was trying to develop conflict literacy skills and you came to a training and then you learned about mediation and you’re like, this is really where it’s at
and you kind of gone all in you’ve you’ve even done, like you’re working on a whole career shift. And so I love that new enthusiasm for mediators and people who are like, wait, this is really where, where it’s at. But I wonder if you’d be willing to just talk about like what the experience was to be in an organization that had conflict to think about, wow, we could really use some help.
Like, like what, what was the thought process for you to be like, oh, maybe I should take this training and then how did it end up taking over your life? Basically? Yeah,
Olga Liapsis-Muzzy: it has taken over my life. It’s what I talk about even at parties. So, you know, , I’m really passionate about it when it’s everywhere. Yeah.
Okay. Let’s see. So I’m gonna go back to that time in my life. I mean, so to give a little bit of personal context, I come from a family that really kind of grabbed our values. Like I think a lot of families connect their values to their religion, for example, and kind of like pull a lot of what it means to be human and how we can build adjust and good society, whatever good means for each one of us.
And my family didn’t quite have that religious grounding, but we had kind of a political grounding that for, for us, it was how I grew up was this idea that, you know, our government should be taken care of us and all people are equal. And you know, that there are these ideas that are very much entrenched in kind of like my political upbringing.
So when I graduated college and it was time to find a job, I landed myself in the labor movement. And so for me, I kind of grew up in terms of my career in a space that was all about fighting for right. And yet the primary strategy that was used is a little bit of an often an antagonizing one, right?
Because we kind of have this idea of like, oh, employers and employees who are in unions, it’s, it’s a bit of a fight. And so I think this concept is really common in a lot of organizations that have kind any, any type of social justice organizing spirit to them. And it’s hard to do something outside that you don’t then replicate inside.
And so one thing I notice from the beginning is that in every organization that I’ve been a part of, there has been conflict because there’s conflict is a part of our lives.
Duncan Autrey: it’s literally, totally, yeah.
Olga Liapsis-Muzzy: Possible not to have conflict in every element, whether it’s the personal professional and.
And also the task of so many of these organizations that I was a part of, that I believed in is really big. So there’s a lot of pressure to make these massive systemic changes to our society. That’s the mission of this organization. And yet we’re managing to get in our own way because of this thing that keeps happening to us, that there’s no way to avoid.
It’s just not possible to avoid conflict. So that had been in the back of my mind, it had been kind of the, the world I was living in. And then, yeah, I was introduced to a mutual mentor of ours. So I know you’ve had on the show, Ken cloak and, and, you know, when things just enter your life at just the right moment, yeah.
Think about something for a while. And then all of a sudden you’re introduced to these brand new sets of people. And so I went to a basic mediation training with Ken and just found the practicality of mediation and conflict resolution that it just is so applicable to many elements of life. And so the first element that I tried to apply it to was my family system.
Cuz of course, most of us have a lot of, well, at least I have a lot of conflict in my family. Sorry, family
Duncan Autrey: but it’s true.
Olga Liapsis-Muzzy: And I found that I was able to, to, to experience real change inside of my family, just by applying these, you know, small, but big changes that I had just learned. And I found that to be so engaging that it, I immediately wondered, you know, what could, what could happen if we tried to do this in organizations too, where we actually have to change your mission that we’re trying to accomplish.
Duncan Autrey: Yeah. So, you know, there’s something just like the naturalness of conflict. I find to be an important thing to remember, like, because. I dunno. I like to say it’s like, as long as we’re in diversity, like we’ll have conflict, we’re gonna have different perspectives. We’ll have different agreements actually had this really interesting example.
I was just at a Starbucks in, in Chicago and I ordered my hot and ordered my ice coffee and, and the the ice coffee’s there sitting on the counter and I could see my name on it. It says Duncan on the label. So I go to reach for it. And this woman goes to reach for it as well. And I’m like, oh, I think that might be my coffee.
And she’s like, oh no, it’s, it’s mine. And, and, and she’s like, and I’m like, well, my name’s on the label. And she’s like, no, my name’s on the label. So I’m like, wait, are yours name Duncan? And she’s like, no, my name’s whatever. And on the other side of the coffee cup was her name on the label. Right. And, and I was like, oh wow.
They must have put two labels on this coffee cup. Right. And so and I was like, It was just like the best example of just like the essence of like different perspectives, right. From her perspective, it’s hers. And from my perspective, it’s mine and very valid, real perspective. Right. And now maybe it’s like even too simple, but, and, and I think part of the reason why family gets to be a place is cuz they’re the folks that we have to be with there.
We might not have been friends with otherwise, right? Like the relationships that we, you know, my sister works as a, you know, works with horses. She lives in Oklahoma. I, we probably wouldn’t have met otherwise, you know? And so we get to be friends. We have different life experiences and, and as long as we have different life experiences, we like conflict will naturally arise.
Now, of course, what part of what you learn in this training is like, wow, this can be a positive experience where we can learn and grow by the benefit of diversity. Or it can be some like entrenched thing that is painful and. Pulls us further apart and, and it’s really a choice. So how do we get people to see that this is something that could be better because I think that we’re get so used to it just being really hard and kind of accepted. I don’t, does that make sense? Yeah. Mm-hmm
Olga Liapsis-Muzzy: yeah, it does make sense. Yeah. I mean, I think that most of us don’t learn conflict resolution skills in our families.
Unfortunately, I think what we learn is how to fight. We learn conflict skills. You know, we, we adopt the patterns and the modeling that we see done in who, you know, whatever access we have, whether it’s directly in our family, in our schools, in our churches, in our community centers. And. And so therefore, I, I think there is this feeling that conflict is negative, that if you are fighting, that is a bad sign.
And I think one of the major reframes that’s made a, a big difference in my life. That’s come out of mediation training is the idea that conflict is neutral. Conflict is not good. It is not bad. It is a state of being in that. In fact, we can use it to grow and strengthen our bonds. So as Perel talks about this in a really wonderful way the psychologist, she talks about how relationships are connection, disconnection, reconnection, that that’s what a relationship is, it’s that you might have, you know the honeymoon period, whether you’re in a romantic relationship or not, but where you’re really clicking, everything’s really good.
And then you have your first moment of true disconnection. And then if you’re able to reconnect, that’s where the relationship continues. And in that moment of reconnection is where we actually build trust.
And I, and I think that, and, and so to kind of bring it back to your actual question, which is how do we get more, more people to give this a try?
I think part of it is in believing that it is worth trying that it is actually worth putting our energy towards reconciliation and building that trust rather than saying, oh, we’re in conflict. And so therefore that must mean there’s something wrong with our relationship and
Duncan Autrey: we shouldn’t even try.
Right. Yeah, I talked, think about like the repair after the rupture, you know, like we know like a bone and break bone and then it heals and like all that it’s all stronger afterwards. And I like that, like when it like the lived experience of this.
So when I had that in a relationship and of course it’s, it’s significant in a relationship. Cause the woman with the coffee walk away doesn’t matter. Right. But with my partner, I say something, whatever, and it’s hard. And it’s like, oh God, it’s weird going on here.
And I’m now learned to be like, pause, let me just find out what the heck’s going on here. And let, just start listening, you know, like time to listen a little bit, find out what’s going on. And then I’m like, oh, okay. And so really this is what’s going on. And then that bond ends up becoming stronger because I took the time to find out something that was important.
So, and the, and I think the reason is, and I think conflict naturally has to do with something that’s important. If we have a feeling about it, then that means we’re, it’s touching something deep. Right. And so if I can learn what that thing is, that’s deep for you. Like, oh, wow. This is, you know, important or you’re having a heart like out of time.
Let me understand that. And so maybe the first layer of answering the question is getting people to recognize one, that conflict is neutral , but that also that it’s this opportunity to sort of learn and understand and actually fortify the connection.
Right. And to like, be like, okay, cool. So now we actually have a more clear understanding about the nature of our relationship and the nature of our experiences. And by making that be a safe experience we’ll be stronger because of it.
Olga Liapsis-Muzzy: And of course the answer might not be yes, every single time.
Like, I, I do think there is when I, when I, when I first started dabbling in this work, my, my perspective was like, mediation’s always the answer, which would always be media, which would always be trying to resolve . And now I’ve cooled down a little bit on that perspective, because it is very energy intensive.
And so I, I, I think that’s the other thing to keep in mind is that it, , I have not, I have not had an experience yet where meeting it in a conflict happened like this, because most of the times the conflicts are very long term. So even if you have a mediation, you know, the idea that a two hour mediation is gonna solve a 10 year problem in those two simple hours, that’s, that’s a really hard equation to even.
and so it, it is energy intensive and it is time intensive. So I think there, there is a little bit, this question of, do I wanna put this energy into this relationship?
Duncan Autrey: But I think
Olga Liapsis-Muzzy: we, we have a tendency and I don’t know if this is a global pattern or whether this is just one that I’ve noticed here in the us, but I certainly feel like I’ve noticed that here in the us, this, this tendency to, to throw people away, this tendency to label one another as you’ve hurt me, that means you’re a wrongdoer.
That means you’re a bad person. And I am the person who’s been hurt here. And one, one of the things that I really love also some of these are different practices that kind of all come together to create kind of one ecosystem, right? So we’ve got mediation and we’ve also got restorative justice and a couple different kind of practices.
And one thing that I feel like I’ve learned from restorative justice is this idea. these labels are getting in our way. There is no right or wrong way to human. There is no right or wrong human. There is only the reality of our actions, which is that we sometimes hurt one another guaranteed. And exactly, exactly.
I mean anyone who can think back, I think every single person who can think back in our lives, I certainly can say this about myself. And think of times when I have felt like I was victimized, where I felt like I was really harmed, I can also think of instances where I harmed others. Like all of us are both wrongdoers and we’re people who have been who have received harm.
And so a, a little bit, what mediation asks of us is to really decide that we’re not throwing any of us away, that it is more worthwhile to continue working together and figure out how to reconcile or to end the relationship in a way that is not destructive, but that to actually kind of transition into one of those two states, rather than just to say, you have hurt me.
And so therefore I will shun you. I will, I will get, I will never engage with you again.
Duncan Autrey: There’s a couple thoughts about this, but I like the first thing is like,
It is okay to walk away, right? Like, like that sometimes, you know, like this is, I, I don’t want to do this. And you know, I’d heard, you know, like someone of like these housemates and like this one housemate was just like causing all these issues. And they’re like, they also know that this housemate needed some healing and help and all these things, and they’re like,
Yeah, actually, it’s okay to ask that person to leave that. And you don’t have to solve this person’s life problems but there’s some relationships that we can’t walk away from, you know, I would say like, you know, our, our Democrats and Republicans, sorry, y’all on the same team.
You can’t walk away from each other. We can’t at the process of trying to separate it out would not, is not gonna be pretty right. You’re family. You can’t really walk away from family. I mean, you can, and actually it’s probably healthy in certain times to give yourself a break, if you need to take it.
But also there’s times where it’s not worth it, so I’m picturing just like any organization, they can be like, oh wow, we having this really big difference of opinions and. I’ve seen those organizations just decide to split into two different organizations and that’s fine, but you’re really missing something because together you could probably achieve a lot more and so this thing about time intensiveness is interesting and Ken, I think has helped frame this well for me as well, that, you can spend the time right now, or you can have the time, so mediation is like, okay, we’re gonna have to clear our schedules.
We’re gonna have three hour conversation, maybe two, three hour conversations. We’ll be able to start whatever this issue is out. Now, the cost of not resolving that issue. Right? So you’re now five years down the road. Now you hate each other. You’re never gonna see each other, there’s a real cost to not doing it.
And probably over time. , it’s gonna take a lot more time to just continue having a conflict or to not address it or not understand it, but if you can get that time up front as important. Right. But I don’t know. I wanna come back to the throwing away, but before that, just like flag. Yeah. Like this is the other part is like, it’s, it’s actually worth taking the time and it’s actually, it’s not that much time. Right. Like to actually slow down and have the conversation comparison right.
Olga Liapsis-Muzzy: But the amount of time that you would be spending in the future, I think that is very
Duncan Autrey: true. Yeah. And it’ll be less time the quicker you, you catch it. Right.
Olga Liapsis-Muzzy: Yeah, yeah. I have falls to what you’re saying right now. Yeah. I, I, this is something that I really, oh, I, I, I find this to be so incredibly important that when we engage, like so often when I am called in to help mediate something, it is usually because the conflict has gotten to just bad it’s bad levels.
We are at places where people are no longer able to hear each other whatsoever harm doesn’t even on some level, doesn’t even matter who started because everyone’s been heard at this point. And, and it would be such a different approach to bring somebody in earlier. Like, I think one of the biggest changes that I’ve made in my personal life is to address
harm when it’s teeny, teeny tiny , it’s not even capital H harm. It’s like just in the smallest little font in the smallest letters or even discontent, or even, you know, feelings of unhappiness, like things that I can’t even quite they’re, they’re not even big feelings yet, but I, but they’re starting to build up.
And I think, I think there’s an element here of what you’re talking about. That when we wait to have the actual conversation, we’re making it harder and harder for us to actually resolve it quickly or resolve it at all. So, yeah, I definitely agree that there’s something here around how early is there is an intervention taking place.
And the earlier that we do it, the less time that it
Duncan Autrey: takes in the long term. Yeah. And I, and, and there’s a way. Like is kind of true all the way across the board and it can get exponentially bigger. Right. So like, wow. To deal with this issue now is gonna take a lot of time cause we didn’t do it earlier.
Okay, great. But if you do it now, it’s still gonna be half as much time as it’s gonna take to do it. You know, it’s
Olga Liapsis-Muzzy: never gonna take less
Duncan Autrey: time. It’s never gonna take less time. Totally. Right. Never gonna take less time. And so then we have this option of like throwing it away or walking away. Right.
And that becomes, I mean, if it’s possible to just like really in the relationship, you know, like, like you maybe not ever need to talk to the person. Right. Again, but insofar as you’re in the same country or in the same family or whatever that, that issue that’s not resolved is just gonna have to echo out.
Like it’s not, it doesn’t actually get reintegrated. You’re like, you’re gonna carry it as the, the harm or the resentment. So that’s gonna be a, continue to be a cursive thing in one’s own life, or but then also you might just be passing it on to the next generation, you know, like, like why is that we don’t ever talk to grandma, you know?
And it’s like, oh, we’re not gonna talk about that. It’s like, well, guess what, your kids are gonna have to deal with it now. Or in an organization, you know, like why are we two different organizations?
Olga Liapsis-Muzzy: Yeah.
And I think one, one thing that kind of helps with this, or, or that I find that has helped me is reminding myself of my present moment of what is the actual present moment, because I think sometimes conflict feed off of a story more than it feeds off of an actual present moment, because we have such a big story that’s been built around what’s happened in our two families or in these two organizations or five organizations, our whole society and stories have power.
You know, there’s a reason why media exists. There’s a reason why television and theater has existed for so long. And so conflict stories also have power, but sitting down and actually looking at the present moment of saying, okay, so let’s put aside the history for a moment and just where are we? Who are we?
And what’s currently happening today, but it’s really hard to do that because usually our history is also our trauma. It’s also what we care about. It’s, it’s just our, our baggage in that way is really important to us. So it’s very difficult to put it down, to have a conversation about just the present moment, which is why I think mediators are so helpful because
they don’t have baggage about the situation. So it’s not that difficult for someone without baggage to be like, let’s look at the present moment. Right. So getting a little bit of help to have those conversations really can make it much easier, but I feel like that’s a big part of it is being like, can we put down the history enough to talk about what’s actually happening today?
Not to ignore the history. I’m not saying that, but just to say that our central point is actually about our present and our future.
Duncan Autrey: An example of this comes up with often in like a mediation is usually there was a miscommunication at some point and that person’s like I’m asking for this, this is what I would like, like, yeah, but you said you wanted this a year ago and that person’s like, no, that’s not what I said.
And so I oftentimes would be like, time out, like, if you want, we can go there, but this is lost into time, right? It’s we’re not gonna be able to recover what was actually said and memories doesn’t work that way. It’s not, we’re not gonna be able to remember like it just your memories, if you’ve been, especially if you’ve been thinking about this a little bit, it’s gotten super distorted, right?
It seems like you’re only really remembering your memory of the memory. And so the more times you run a memory through your head, you’re actually just like rewriting it. So we can’t figure out what it was. So right now, what is it that you would like to say? Right. And now people now that’s hard because the whole reason why we’re here is because of the thing that someone said back in the day and, and that, so that’s hard to come into the present.
And now hearing that, I’m also thinking though that there’s john Paul letter act who was like, kind of one of the fathers of conflict transformation, I think maybe even developed the whole term. He has this model that I kind of think looks like a little bit like a flower, but there’s like kind of these like concentric circles kind of going out to the left and right.
And then concentric circles going up. And so in order to transform a conflict, you have to be able to deal with the immediate past the remembered past the lived past, or say the lived past the remembered past, and then just all of the, the cultural history that’s behind it. Right. Like beyond. So if we have a conflict in our community or whatever, like, guns or whatever United States. So it’s like, whatever immediately just happened, then there’s like, whatever it was, that’s happened in your lifetime. And then whatever happened in your parents’ lifetime or the people who are still alive and what, the stories that they’ve heard.
And then there’s the stuff where it was like ideas that came from the origins of the constitution. So that’s coming all the way in. And then on the other side, you have to deal with what do we wanna do next? And then we wanna do for over the next year or two, what do we wanna do over the next 10 years?
And what do we wanna do over the next couple generations? And like, so you kind of take that into account and then you also should take account, okay, there’s you and me then there’s like the community and organization around us, which is part of like a whole system. And then there’s like that system’s probably part of another system or a subsystem.
So there’s like, and now if you wanna actually transform the whole situation, you can deal with this very specific issues. So we can deal with this like we can in a mediation, we can deal with this issue, this topic you know, like an interest based conflict or context specific solution. This is what I need now to feel good.
Now between you and me about this topic but if it’s you really want to change the whole thing and be like, wait, how do we get into this situation? What is it that took a God us to get here? What, how do we make sure that this doesn’t impact how do we make sure that we’re dealing this with this better?
And then how do we make sure that, that we’re taking into account, like all of the deep history and the deep future and what are the systems? And it becomes this whole matrix and I’m realizing there’s like a contradiction here, so like on one hand where do we wanna deal with right now? And we can simplify it and then
you can’t ignore the bigger piece. And anyways, this is where it gets more time intensive. And actually it’s funny. I just talked to someone who con called me and they had a conflict and the discrimination experience, and they’ve filed a complaint and then they’re going to enter into some sort of formal process and then they get to have a mediation.
And now the person’s trying to figure out, do I wanna have a settlement? And just like, you know, I don’t ever get to talk about again. They gave me some money and the issue disappears, or do I wanna make sure that this never happens to someone again? And if you wanna make sure it doesn’t happen to someone again, you’re have to engage with this person, not as an enemy, but as a ally and figuring out how to change it.
And realizing like this might take years of my life to get this whole thing changed. I don’t know if I want to do that. And again we have the choice, but
Olga Liapsis-Muzzy: and also I shouldn’t have to, I feel like is the other feeling right? It’s like, I’m the one who’s been hurt.
I shouldn’t have to put the effort in. And I feel that to the core of my bone, my bones, you know, cuz I just, I on one level agree and also that’s not our world and our reality, right. The reality is that it actually takes both people in order for healing to happen. Unfortunately, I wish the world worked differently, but I have yet to see an instance and perhaps they exist.
But most of the time for that profound change to happen that you’re talking about, which is that this thing does not happen again. It does take healing on both sides for that
Duncan Autrey: to happen. Yeah, exactly. And that’s a hard pill to swallow. There’s like a quote that I love, cuz it’s so provocative.
If you’re not part of the problem, you can’t be part of the solution. And there’s like a variation of it where it’s like, you know, if you think it’s a problem you’re responsible for fixing it, I see trash on the ground. I don’t know that trash cut there.
I’m angry about it. Well guess what? It’s my job to pick up the trash. Right? If I don’t care, I can just walk on vibe, but if I care, I can be like, let’s get a video camera and find out who dropped this here and we’re gonna go hunt them down and drag them here and have ’em pick up the Nope.
So I’m gonna connect this back to the throwing away, right? Because I think that this starts pointing to like one of the core problems we’re gonna have to figure out how to deal with is like I’m in a situation.
And oftentimes when people are thinking about conflict, that they’re like, I’m the good person and this other person’s the bad person. And in my experience as a mediator, I haven’t never met someone who was just the good person, only the good person, this person’s the bad person. They’re always both good people, dealing with someone acting poorly.
And so whether people know it or not, and like going engaging in this process is gonna ask you to recognize your role in the situation and be able to like, engage with the other person as like, okay, we’re gonna have to work on this and figure out how this needs to change includes the admission of having some responsibility for it.
And that’s vulnerable and hard. And so it’s easier to get crime than good guy and all this other persons just gone and we just make this person disappear than then it’ll be better. And and that’s of course, like we’re seeing this happen, like this is like one of our like cultural issues, right around cancel culture or whatever we wanna call it.
And what it seems to me is that if I’m not willing to admit that, like I’m part of it and I just wanna make sure that the other person’s the only problem. And I have nothing to do with the problem. This has to do with like an internal experience of self forgiveness, because as we were saying, we’re all guaranteed to harm people at some point.
And if I can’t admit that, then I don’t know, like this is hard work to admit that. Right. And and the easiest way to avoid, like if I have to hold onto the idea that I’m in infallible then there’ll be a cognitive distortion that I have to kind of change the world around me and be like, well, the problem is clearly those people are those people.
Olga Liapsis-Muzzy: takes a lot of mental energy to
Duncan Autrey: keep that story up. It does. Sometimes I think that that might be like a little bit what’s behind the queue. And on whole thing is that if you have the begin with the assumption that America is perfect and infallible, and that we’re all good people, like then the only way to understand why there’s like all these problems of the world is for some sort of crazy cabal to be controlling the levers behind.
And like, there there’s the bad guy, because if it’s not all of us that are the problem, then there must be someone out there and then you have to go find that person and then you have to figure out how to understand it.
Olga Liapsis-Muzzy: And I think part, I, I, I like an element of this is also, I feel like this is where punishment comes in, cuz it’s like, if I admit that I am a bad person, then I will be punished. And I think this is an inherent, just challenge with our justice system and just talk about challenges in our systems. We have many of them, but this is I think, a profound one that we haven’t figured out.
I have this idea, which is gentle accountability, which is just, you know, being profoundly gentle with one another, as we look at a situation and look at the harm that’s happened. But I think what we have this tendency to do is, you know, again, a part of the throwing away people is also saying, okay, well, if you’ve done something wrong, then you deserve to be punished.
But that keeps us from admitting that we’ve done something wrong, right? And it’s in the admitting that we are always capable of doing harm at any moment, we are capable of doing harm and there is no way to erase that. I think, I think we sometimes. I, I see this as a lie to ourselves. Maybe other people see it differently, but I think sometimes we lie to ourselves by saying that perhaps we can get rid of harm in the world someday.
And I just don’t actually believe that that’s possible. I think the only thing that’s possible is to set up systems that allow us to quickly heal from harm. Right. But it isn’t actually possible to eliminate harm in the world. There’s nothing that we can do to get rid of that. That is a part of our natural cycle.
And that is a part of what it means to be alive, but that are we making it harder or easier for us to heal afterwards. And I think right now our society is making it much, much harder,
Duncan Autrey: definitely heal. I think that there’s like something in the criminal justice system or in this justice process that is kind of has this potential to sort of unlock some really interesting conversations.
First of all, justice has its own tension built into it if you too much, justice becomes unjust and too little justice becomes unjust. Right. And then we have a system that’s like really wants to sort of like throw away people that are the trouble. And then we also are very concerned about people who are getting thrown away for reasons that aren’t really valid and having their whole lives ruined forever.
And, you know, in this system there’s like an, an illusion or this idea that like, here’s what happened? You did something wrong, here’s just punishment. And now you did your thing and now you’re done, right? Like, and when people get out of jail, it seems to me that there should be a celebration, you know?
And they’re like, welcome back to society. Thanks for doing all that hard work you did there, what lessons would you like to share from time for reflection and, and here’s the like of money to help you get back on your feet and how can we help you get a job and welcome back.
Instead it’s like you’re out in the street, you’re in no money, you have no thing. You lost all of your relationships. You have to put it on every job application, put it, all these things. And it’s like, wait a minute, didn’t the person already do their work. But that is happening like on a systemic level.
And we’re, and no one’s talking about it because no one wants to be the politician. Who’s like, I think we should really take care of criminals, you know? Cause our media would just rip that person apart, but what does that mean for each of us that are like stepping on each other’s toes, making mistakes, and there’s not really an incentive to make amends because there’s not really any culture of forgiveness right now. And I think that culture of forgiveness is really hard. I just reading this article, like school board in San Francisco, something and head of the school board said some stuff that people were like some racist,
and she was like, wow, I’m sorry about doing that. And like, I’m thinking about it and I’m doing making my amends and they’re like, no, you’re gonna be fired and you should never be in this and ever again. And it’s like, okay. Is there enough of an apology that can have people be forgiven? And if that’s not true for other people then is that not true for you?
Like, are you not willing to forgive your own self. right. I mean, I wouldn’t be able to like function if I felt like I needed to continue to be making amends for harm, I’ve done. Well,
Olga Liapsis-Muzzy: inevitable again, you know, if it, if, if, if something is inevitable, my belief is we should figure out how to live with it.
Not figure out how to get it out of our lives, because that is a losing battle. But I think you are onto something that there, that it, like the core of it is forgiving ourselves. I don’t know who said this quote. I did learn it from Ken. Ken. You’re getting a lot of shoutouts of this podcast. in this podcast episode.
I don’t know who the original author is, but it’s that forgiveness is giving up all hope for a better past.
It’s like this idea that you actually can’t change the past that we can hang on to what we wish had happened to us, what we wish had been different, but that, that is energy. That, I mean, the question ends up beginning that ends up being is that energy that you wanna put towards it. But when we are able to actually forgive ourselves, then the ability to forgive others opens up.
But that if we haven’t done that for ourselves, it’s gonna be really diff difficult to do that with anyone else. And then I think this is where the systemic to the individual starts coming in because in my analysis, I think the way that we change systems, cuz our systems are just as alive as we are, systems are made up of a bunch of individuals living on this planet together in this universe together.
And. Every moment that we change as individuals that means our system is also changing. It’s just that we don’t feel it unless there’s a large enough number of people who are changing in the same way, because the system has so many different parts to it and is so complex. But I just, I’ve wondered. I’ve asked myself at times before, what would it look like if our, like, if our school system and I, and I don’t mean our, just whatever thing that everybody went through.
So one of the things that everybody goes through is school. And so what if one of the things that everybody went through in our society is a process of figuring out how to forgive yourself. Like what monumental change would that be if we started had systemic change implemented into, or individual change, excuse me, implemented into our actual system.
So that large number of people could go
through it at the same time. Yeah. Well, I mean, of course that would require such a massive change of how we use our resources and how we use that time together in community.
Duncan Autrey: Right. Well, and you know, there’s like a, one of the, I, I think that like Christian Church was holding that down for a long time. Right. And cause there’s like everyone’s a sinner and there’s a path to be redeemed and it’s believing whether it’s going to confession or whether it’s believing that Jesus is already sorted that out for you.
So there was like a process, here’s what happens when you make a mistake, here’s what you do, here’s how you get out of it. Now you’re done you’re back into the fold. And so in our secular world, we like don’t seem, we don’t seem to have like that mechanism
and which to do that. Right. So coming back to like the justice thing, we think that the system is like not working here. Like these people need to be forgiven. These people shouldn’t be forgiven. Like being able to surface that contradiction, I think is there’s this like some opportunity there to be able to be like, wait a minute, what, when would that be?
Like, when is it enough? And you’re really on point about just like, this is like such an interesting multi-scale issue, right? Because the us has done some horrible things in this history. I mean, and, and before it was either country and the individuals have done the different things, what would it take for the forgiveness to happen?
Right. Or to have there be enough of an amends or reconciliation to be able to say, okay, you know what, wow, super sorry for taking over your country. Sorry for like blowing up your whole thing. Sorry, fors, slaving all these people, sorry for wiping out indigenous populations.
And as I heard someone saying that their critique of reparations was that if my sense is that if we had huge reparations thing, like every disin enslaved family was, was given, $200,000 and Mitch McConnell and Joe Biden and Donald Trump and all get on their knees and they cry and they say, apologies.
And we build a monument to, to re reconcile all these things. And we, and everyone gets to free college education, he would be like, oh, cool, racism’s over. No problem. We’re all good. And it’s like, no, people will be like, well, this is just the beginning. , you know? And
so how do we actually heal from it? But I think the other piece about we’re all just the system is just made up as of, as us as individuals, is that at least my hope is that like, if I’m able to sort of become a model of someone who’s willing to admit the harms, I’ve done forgiven myself and I get to live into that freedom.
I dunno, maybe I can make it look good for other people and maybe they want to have the same experience, right? Like, yeah.
Olga Liapsis-Muzzy: I do think modeling has a lot to do with it. And that’s sometimes I just Marvel of what it really means to try to be a mediator. So for any of our other practitioners out there who are listening, I don’t know if this is something that you go through, but sometimes I’m like, dang, I really chose something that just demands.
like, I, how can I, how can I try to con create a container of healing if I’m not actively healing myself? And if I’m not actively healing my community in my family, there’s like a, a demand that in order for this thing to work, that you’re actually actively engaging inside of it. And so I have really asked myself, how do you how do you create containers that allow for true healing to happen?
And I think one part of it is looking at it nonjudgmentally looking at. What has happened, looking at the present moment and looking at the history without placing blame that there’s this action of looking and analyzing nonjudgmentally, which is so we do not have a practice of doing it. And this is what makes me feel very scared about critical race theory and this idea that we shouldn’t talk about his, we shouldn’t talk about our history in a way that is really honest with young people and is age appropriate, but truthful in the sense of what actually happened in the impact that it had on people that ha continues to this day.
And I find this to be really scary because I think step number one is looking at it, but I also think the reason why these communities are so afraid and why so many people are truly afraid to look at our history is because there is a fear that it can’t be done, not judgmentally that you, as an individual in this case, let’s say an individual white person will be held account.
For something that you believe you did not singularly do, but I, I think the practice here is saying, this is not about creating blame in this moment. There will be accountability account we’re on this path towards accountability, but that blame is not, does not actually have to be a part of this process, that it can actually be looking at the full picture.
And then each one of us saying, where do we see ourselves inside of it? And there’s something so much more powerful about somebody being able to look at a scenario and say, oh wow. Like I think back on my family history and I think to myself, okay. So what did my ancestors gave me, gave me a certain amount of stability and gave me a certain amount of my needs are being able to be met in real ways at this point in my life, and also caused a certain amount of harm in the process of doing that to other people.
And so for me to live a full life, now I need to acknowledge that. And is there something that I can do to repair that there’s just so much power when people choose that for themselves, which requires us to look at it without blame first. That is completely missed
when we force people to do that.
Duncan Autrey: Wow. Yeah. It’s interesting. I like this thought about how many things that they were like, not gonna talk about are not gonna address because we don’t trust how other people are gonna handle it. Right. Like that’s an interesting thing. Right. And the next layer is that like, blame is a way that people tend to handle things.
So if we assume that people are gonna use blame or they’re gonna try to scapegoat someone for whatever it is as a response, then it’s tricky to bring up. Whatever topic. Right. And then the response to the blame is now I’ve been blamed now. Like if I haven’t felt like dealt with it for myself yet, then it’s, that’s actually painful and really hard for me to receive that.
And, and now that we’ve already started, the process might as well just throw it back at you. And now we’re re perpetuating like this situation. Right. And so my, on my father’s side, my roots go to Georgia and my ancestors were officers in the civil war for the Confederate side and definitely owned slaves.
And I got to hear my grandmother talk about how her grandmother how they’re really nice to their enslaved humans that they had or whatever, you know, compared to other people. I don’t know. And now we’re still the good guys. Totally. Yeah, good guys. Right. That’s like what exactly, exactly. And cuz we’re all still the and so as you know, it was a journey for me, it was about a decade about almost two decades ago now that I really had to face what it meant to be just like a white male with privilege and class privilege and being a us American and you know, just like being, having all the privileges.
And I wanted to say that it’s not fair, da, da, da, are you sure? And so I had great people in my life who loved me and were able to say yes, Duncan. This is worth looking at it’s worth paying attention to so instead of like, when I got accused of being some white guy with too much privilege, I didn’t know what he was doing and just stomping around which I was doing.
Like my initial reaction was like, shut, well, come on, I’m trying to help out here. I’m trying to do good things. And you know, I wanted to do that, but instead I had to go, no, no, NA I, so I had done some work on that and I’ve done the work on my whiteness and I’ve done work around being a man and, and all, whatever, all the pieces.
And so now if someone’s like Hey, you’re family owned slaves, you know? And you’re like, you have privilege from that. Or you have privilege from being a man. I’m like, oh yeah, this is such a really interesting topic. That doesn’t mean you I wanna hear more about it. I can tell you what town they were in.
Let’s. And so now it doesn’t matter to me. I’ve worked on it. I know what’s going on here. I maybe someone will bring something up that I hadn’t thought about yet, and now I’m ready to be like, huh. Interesting. But, so I’m like I’m Teflon because I’ve done the work myself.
So someone can just like throw all the things at me. And if I hear something, then I’m like, I haven’t maybe processed yet. I know now, like, okay, this is great. Let me just let, let’s pull that part out. I hadn’t thought about that before, you know? And again, this is like long slow work, but then sooner you deal with it, the better, this is like that thing again. Right.
Olga Liapsis-Muzzy: And the issue is that we haven’t figured out how to do it systemically, right. Because we’re not gonna accomplish systemic change by
a random assortment of white folks. as good as it is for us to look at our history and understand it. We’re not actually gonna accomplish systemic change if that’s not happening on a broad, massive scale and we’re reshuffling resources and we’re rethinking our society. And we’re really getting down to taking care of all of our basic needs.
And, and I think that’s where sometimes I feel even the, kind of like the push, right? Of even inside of the left of like, wh how are we taking it from this individual level to this systemic level of how are we actually going from, I feel different and I see this differently than I did before. And that is meaning a different life for this generation of people.
Those of us who are still alive now, and those who will be alive in the future.
Duncan Autrey: Yeah. Well, cause you’ve been talking about the systemic piece a bit and there’s like, and you know, so you mentioned idea, first of all, just like education, you know, like, like can we teach some of the skills around communication, forgiveness to young humans right now?
That’s one layer mm-hmm there’s another layer of like, what I was thinking about when you were talking was organizational a cause that someone’s like, okay, this is something that’s really important. Like what would it be like for an organization to sort of recognize. We recognize that we’re part of the issue, like, and we wanna like engage with our enemies, you know?
And then actually, why don’t we use this within our organization, you know, like, and and so there’s, I don’t know. It seems like that we can, John Paul letter act also talks about like what he calls like the, the, the strategic middle, because like, if you go to the top, there’s like two few people at the top, so you can’t just have like the president and be like, we’re gonna start forgiving each other.
No, one’s gonna care. Right. And then if you try to get all 350 million, you know, us Americans to forgive themselves, it’s probably gonna take longer too long. so but you can find the folks that are kind of like a, the in between space and organizations have that, that kind of in between space. We’re gonna take a different approach to this.
And so instead of just blaming the Republicans or blaming the Democrats for whatever the problem is that we’re dealing with, right. We’re blame the protestors, or we’re gonna blame the, the instead be like, huh. You know, well, let’s figure out how we can work with each other. And, and which is kind of like the whole idea of like the Dpace initiatives, like kind of change theory is a little bit, is like within an organization, if you can get people to realize that they’re gonna have to, that they can benefit.
And like, from learning about their conflict and effectively managing it, that they might then start realizing that the way that they’re dealing with the conflicts that they’re trying to be in, like might have a different approach.
Olga Liapsis-Muzzy: Yeah. The other thing that’s coming to mind for me is this question of, so we’re able to do it on the individual level. Let’s say that we are really able to get people, to look at our histories, look at our present moment, decide not to throw one another away, even though we’ve cost harm and say that we wanna live in a future.
That’s different from that. Okay. We’re able to do that on the individual level. Then I feel like the question ends up being what is our actual sphere of influence, cuz if we can convince an individual person or not even convince that this individual person can have this realization of yes, this is the kind of experience and world that I wanna live in.
Then the question is okay. What access do you have to create change inside of your immediate community? And I think that is one place where organizations do actually have a lot of access. We do get more access. When we build organizations, we increased our resources profoundly. When we work together, we increase the access that we have to people because we have more people working together.
So that, that, that fear of influence question is I think one that is sometimes missing, cuz it’s like, oh, okay. If you’re doing the individual work, that’s enough. But it’s like, Hmm. What if we combined the individual work along with, okay, well now what decision making capability do you have? What,
what axis do you have that maybe somebody else does not have that you could
actually use in your way?
Duncan Autrey: Yeah, there was like an interesting podcast about like how much impact do we have if I recycle, or if I turn off the light in the other room or whatever, and like, like individually, like pretty much zero, like you, nothing you do, isn’t actually gonna make a difference on the thing.
But if you live in an apartment building and you can get the apartment building to recycle or get the hallway lights to turn off, now you got something that you can really make some change. And like, that actually makes a difference. And so, you know, hearing this made me think like, okay, where do I have access?
And like, so I’m in the leadership group of an organization called thrive and we make decisions. We, you, we tend to just have consensus cuz we all kind of trust each other and you know, like that sounds a great yeah, go for it. You know? And. But every once in a while we have to vote on something. And, and that’s what I’ve been noticing.
I’m like, why are we voting? I don’t actually believe in like the, I think voting is like the lowest form of democracy because it, you create a situation where 50% of the people don’t like something like why don’t we try to make a different option here that more people might be into. And and so I’ve been, you know, working on like helping us have a consensus process that, that, that is focused on integrating dissenters.
Right. So instead of trying to be like, okay, does anyone have any concerns about this? And you’re like, I do. I didn’t think this is an issue. Okay, cool. How would you change this? That would help you feel more comfortable and and that idea of like. now again, it’s, it’s kind of me taking my values and then like, and like this kind of perspective and amplifying, and now is the body of eight people.
Right. So not making huge scale choices. So then I wonder, like, if you happen to be part of like an organization that had thousands of people in it hypothetically you know, like how might you introduce, you know, this, to that, that larger space.
Olga Liapsis-Muzzy: Yeah. How would you introduce it to that larger space?
Oh, I mean that, I, I feel like that’s also a part of what organizing is, you know, organizing is figuring out what is your problem? who do you need on your side in order to solve this problem? And so, I mean, we build the thing with hierarchy. I feel like it’s the go-to for practically every single organization.
occasionally there are some collectives that really work on consensus, but I feel like most organizations have a certain amount of hierarchy. And the reason that we have hierarchy is because it, it certainly moves things much faster. There’s a clear protocol, there’s clear decision makers, you know, if things move much, much faster.
And yet that creates so much bureaucracy that creates so much barriers to conversation. And it also creates gate keeping, you know, where all of a sudden one person ends up being the, the, the key to whether this policy change can happen inside of an organization. and I think one challenge to all of us working in organizations is how to deconstruct our hierarchies, not to the point where we are immobilized, because we organizations have really important missions that they’re trying to accomplish.
And a lot of these are on a really short timeline. Like when you think about the climate crisis, we don’t have a lot of time to make dramatic changes. So, you know, and, and most organizations, I think that’s, that’s the, that’s the case with their emissions, even if they’re not related to climate change. So how do we deconstruct hierarchy enough so that we’re eliminating these negative side effects of hierarchy and also allowing for some amount of speed.
And my current theory come back to me in a few years and we’ll see if this stays the same. my current theory is that it’s a combo effect that I think if we can figure out how to better streamline a use of both consensus. And hierarchy for short term speed oriented projects or elements of the organization.
I think there’s something there in allowing us to be able to affect that kind of change that so often gets blocked
Duncan Autrey: Yeah. That’s yeah. And I wanted like, you know, flag that were like specifically talking about the hierarchies of like power and decision making. Right. You know, someone was like, all the hierarchies are a problem.
And yeah, they’re actually really natural thing. I was the example I gave was like, I make the best French toast in this house. Right. Like, you know, and so I’m the one who makes the French toast. It’s a, it’s a natural hierarchy. You, whatever, you know, like I can show you and you could maybe get better than me.
It’s not, you know, but but it’s not stag, it’s stagnant. Yeah. But, but, but the hierarchy’s of power. Right. And they’re useful, especially to consolidate decision making or decentralize because it’s efficient and and you can keep it clean and, and we’re dealing with like urgent situations.
Right. So and, and we’re doing urgent situations, like, you know, like climate change and, you know, like we need to find an like a solution to this now. And then as we were talking about before, there’s like take some time to actually talk it through and figure out how do we get all these people on board, all the different folks.
Right. We need to like, you know, it’s like and it’s tempting to skip that BEC you know, the slower time intensive experience because it’s urgent. But if you, yeah, don’t do it correctly, then you’re still gonna have to deal with the issue. Right. And
yeah, yeah. To your
point earlier, you’re gonna pay for it in the future.
And so, okay. We gotta do something about this. Maybe the time is already passed. If we already minded B passed the point of no return when it comes to, to dealing with the climate crisis. Right. So who knows, but let’s say that, okay, we’re gonna take five years to get like really thoughtful conversation.
That includes the energy industry includes the environmental things includes indigenous peoples includes all the different citizens includes. You know, and we’re gonna, and it’s gonna take a really long, slow deliberative, thoughtful process. But the end of five years, we will have something that everyone’s on board with.
And then we can implement collectively and, and people are gonna be excited about, well five years, are you kidding me? We don’t have time for that. Right. And it’s like, okay. Yeah. The other option then. Let’s let’s move this way a little bit and just kind of force the, you know, like force it down. Well, we have these people in power and then like, let’s force it over here a little bit, and then guess what new leadership comes along, or you have some sort of, we dictatorship to, you know, like where, like we have someone who’s just like, I’m the climate dictator, here’s what everyone’s doing. You have to do this, you gotta turn those lights off in your room, you know, whatever. And everyone, and we got the police or coming to bust you, if you aren’t recycling or whatever, you know, whatever the thing is.
Right. And yeah, well guess what’s gonna happen then you’re gonna have total resistance. You’re gonna have people fighting back. Cause like, I didn’t agree to that. I don’t know if I, you know, and so yeah, there is like, you pay for it now or you pay for it later. So I’m something about this like combo package that I think is helpful.
And, and I kind of imagine, like we have our representative system, right? We have people that have the decision making power for. My city, my region, my state, my country. Right. And if that person could take that time to actually gather information and perspectives using thoughtful, deliberative, dialogue processes, and conflict resolution process, consensus building.
Right. So oh, wow. That sounds like a really tricky issue. Let me take it to the people, bring in the facilitator, let’s get a sample of the population. Let’s figure it out. Let’s talk to the different groups. Let’s talk to the different organizations. Let’s get them to talk to each other.
Right. And, you know, come up with a solution between them. It’s gonna take a, a bit of time. And then when I’m ready, I feel like I’ve gotten all the information as the representative elected representative, write up the bill, put it to a vote. And on here we go, like, so there’s like, that’s kind of combination of.
making sure that people who have formal power are just informed by slow deliberative processes. Like that could be a really interesting thing. Right? Mm-hmm like kind of to bridge that. Yeah. And what
Olga Liapsis-Muzzy: I would add to that idea is also cuz the, then the second challenge ends up being is that we’re constantly changing.
And so even if you’ve taken five years and you’ve managed to do it beautifully, whatever outcome you have in that moment might have a new element to it as soon as a month later. And that element now is central and is incredibly important. And so even when we write policies or even when we come up with solutions, the truth is that no solution is gonna be consequence less.
Every solution is gonna cause another problem. It just is our systems are too complex at this point for that, not to be a reality. And so. A question for me, ends up being, how do we make it iterative and responsive and less rigid of like, okay, now here’s a policy and we’ve passed it. And therefore we must follow through on exactly what this is.
It’s like, Hmm. How can we continue assessing whether we have solved the problem that we defined so nicely, whether the problem itself has changed or whether there are new consequences that we were completely unaware of that are now in the mix that we wanna be
Duncan Autrey: responsive to. Mm-hmm yeah, this is, yeah.
Like the, this is like the other aspect of being part of like a system, right? It’s like we have to change things on the systems level, but we also any complex system or a wicked problem is like a way that people talk about this is like every change we make is gonna have an impact on the system. And then, and and then we’re gonna have to do another one and, and every deci and.
What’s more as the person who made that decision or chose to do this thing is now responsible. And so we have this culture of no forgiveness and whatever, like we get ourselves like in this like loop, cuz like I don’t wanna be the person who tries to come up with the once and for all solution. And then I’m gonna be held accountable for it.
When I know that, no, one’s really gonna know if this is gonna work or not. Cause no one’s ever tried it before. Like it’s not really, it’s not a good situation for people to actually try things out. So there’s like maybe like some part of the, like that iterative ongoing process where it’s like, instead of saying, we’re gonna sort this out in the end of the 22 election, 20, 22 election or the end 20, 24, like it is all gonna be that done and we’re gonna get this bill passed and now we’re all completed.
What if we just started admitting. Y’all, this is gonna be going on for the rest of our lives and our children’s lives. And, and like, so instead of trying to figure out what’s the outcome, like, how do we just make this system be able to keep on integrating the things responding quickly when we need to, but then like rechecking, you know, like how did that work?
Is this helping okay, well that didn’t work forgiven onwards to the next thing, you know, like, let’s try it again. And this is where Ken talks about like conflict resolution systems design, which is like, and like, how do you get a system to like, to be in a constant state of adaptation, and just give some shout out to like the constitution actually really does set up a really interesting iterative
problem solving system, right? Like it’s and it’s worked for a long time, right? It’s like a, no, here we go. We’re gonna have a new election. We’re gonna have balances of power, you know, da, da, da, da. We have this court that’s gonna like keep on reviewing things and jurisprudence and start accumulating a bunch of wisdom.
They didn’t anticipate whatever you know, social media and polarization and all these things that, you know, that weren’t. But you know, we like the system. We’re not gonna find the final solution. We’re not gonna. And so there’s something about that, like forgiving themselves for like, if I try and doesn’t work that’s okay.
Mm-hmm we doesn’t try the next thing. And, and even if it does work, it’s only gonna address this issue. And I used to joke about like increasing shades of adequacy. I was like, it’s all we’re going for. This is inadequate. This is a little more adequate. Okay. Now it’s a little more adequate, but no one wants to buy my increasing shades of adequacies.
So. They want solutions yeah,
Olga Liapsis-Muzzy: I know. And you know, when I first like right after that basic mediation training that I described, that I did with Ken, I developed a little spreadsheet for myself, cuz I’m a little bit of a data nerd on my own, my own little way where I was like, I wanna track every mediation that I do.
I wanna, I wanna know if it was resolved or not. And I had this this column in my spreadsheet that was literally that binary. Was it resolved or not? And it did not take me long to realize that this is the wrong question. it is not, this is not an answerable question. it is not a binary of, is it resolved or is it not?
It is just, have you developed enough of a practice that this is getting resolved right now. And are you able to use what you learned in the process of resolving this conflict to resolve on this one? Right. Cause it’s like. To bring it back to your earlier point of, you know, how do we heal from something as big as racism, for example, or slavery in this country?
It’s, we’re never humans. We have this tendency towards dominance. We, we have this tendency towards, can I can I dominate you? Is it possible for me to take care of my needs? This is a relationship that has been common throughout all of our history. And so even in the instance, and I wish that we reach this level inside of our history or inside of our future, even in, if we are able to reach this moment where we’re able to have a moment of true accountability for what has happened historically in this country, I do not believe that we will get be guaranteed, that it won’t happen again.
I believe we will be, it will be possible for it to happen again, if we don’t figure out how to keep. Taking the practice of nonviolence. And that’s where I think nonviolence comes in because nonviolence is the, is the opposite of that dominance. Nonviolence is saying we are both equal. We are both valuable.
And no matter the choice that I am making is to see your humanity and see it as equal to mine. And that I won’t take violent, violent action
Duncan Autrey: against you. Yeah. Yeah. I, yeah. There’s like the acknowledgement of in that of like, like we’re bound up with each other, right. Like, right. And and I choose not to perpetuate like the harm, you know, in the, in my response to this.
Right. And this is the part that I’ve been thinking about is like, that’s like a choice that we have to make that like, I want to be angry with you and I kind of want you to feel the hurt that I feel right now. And I would really be satisfying actually. Yeah. Really just like, make you just like shred you apart.
Yeah. Like if you figure out the words that I could tell you, they were just really, I am hurting, so they’re totally, and that’s too, it’s compelling and I get it and, and I actually got a chance to be really, I haven’t had a lot of anger in my life, I think just suppressed it, but I got to feel a lot of anger about some old story.
And I was like, I want to go and just like, tell the person, just like really shred them apart. And I’m like, but God damnit. I’m like actually smart enough to know that that’s not gonna help. And yeah. Oh, oh God, let me just write the really mean letter, you know? And I’m like, Nope. and like, and, and so I’m actively making the choice of all.
I, I want to actually heal this and that means that I can’t respond with the, you know, like, and I can’t bite back. And I don’t know, there’s something about like, as a country, like by choosing to be a diverse pluralistic with all the religions and all the people from backgrounds and all the different countries and all the different states, the melting pot, the whole thing we got going on.
Like that means that we’re choosing to say, we’re not gonna try to win with our best idea or to have it look just the way I want it to look. I’m actually open to exploring other possibilities with you. And, but that’s a choice that we have to keep making because our natural built in tendency is to.
Just wanna hang on people who look like us and think like us and act like us and, and, and avoid all those other people. So it’s like a, it’s a human thing to be like, I, I don’t trust those other folks over there. I don’t trust these folks over here. I don’t, I don’t think they should have any power cuz I trust me and I trust my, and, but we’re actually making a choice to con and we have to keep making it.
And, and then of course that’s what the risk is, is because if that, if the essence of that choice doesn’t get passed on, you know, like, like or the wisdom of it, like then it’s really easy to just be like, oh yeah, no I don’t. Why, why would I ever wanna get along with these people? And it’s like, well, cuz there’s actually a ton of benefits.
We benefit so much by our diversity and our and yeah. Yeah. I don’t know
Olga Liapsis-Muzzy: exactly. We do benefit. I mean, I think about. I just look back in my, in my own work inside of organizations and the more diverse the team that I worked on, if we were truly able to actually resolve conflict and accomplish our goal, it was always better.
I mean, you know, there’s the, there’s the there’s even a few experiments that have been done on this. You know, how you can ask a question, the jelly beans and the jar, you know, the, the community in total will have a more accurate guest than one random person will have it, it we’re collective we’re, we’re, we’re meant to be in community.
And so I, I think we have so, so much to learn from one another when we’re different. And and also I do think that’s where the answers to. Complex solutions are I think every problem that we have in the world, a solution already also exists in the world. It’s just that we don’t have the capacity to collaborate at a large enough scale that we can connect
Duncan Autrey: those two together.
Yeah. Yeah. And that’s yeah, and it’s just like such a, such a great paradox, right. That there were like both it’s one of the big, my kind of life project questions is like, okay, if we can resolve conflicts between two people who can resolve conflicts between 10 people and a hundred people, like, what would it look like for us to resolve complex between a hundred thousand, a million or a billion people. Right.
And and it’s a cool question. And and the fact that it is a fractal and kind of actually looks similar in all skills, I mean, was like, We’re gonna have to break the bigger ones into smaller pieces. Right. And that there’s like that, like, because there’s actually, but there’s a lot of clever ways to do this and, and we can get like a representative sample of it.
Right. You know, or, or so, so that, I think this piece about like starting where you are, like, where do you have access? Or where is your sphere of influence? You know? Cause if you can start making these kinds of changes in a organizational level or in a community level, right. Or, you know, in a city level then yeah.
It’s just like, you know, light bulb. It’s like, I don’t, I don’t have any individual impact and yet there’s nothing here, but individuals, right. I don’t know. I wanted to share my Alexander soldier that’s in quote, which it like one of my favorites and it’s just been up for me in this whole conversation.
I’m curious any any things that you’re like loosens that you wanna sort of loop into this conversation, and obviously we can continue thinking together so not totally perfectly. It it’s from the ULA log archipelago. It’s about the people getting sent off to the Gul logs and Soviet union.
And Alexander soldier says, wouldn’t it be great if there were evil people in the world, kid admitting evil deeds, and all we had to do was separate them from the rest of us and all of our problems would be solved. But the truth is that the line between good and evil cuts through each of our own hearts.
And no one is willing to cut away a piece of their own heart. When we’re tempted to like, use the blame or try to separate, or like be like, these people are too far gone like it’s worth remembering that. Well, you actually can’t get rid of them. the sooner you talk to them the better.
And, and if you’re afraid that there is possible for people to make mistakes and be totally irredeemable check in with yourself, you know, like, cuz that. And that there’s probably some dark inner con some inner conversation. It might be worthwhile having
Olga Liapsis-Muzzy: percent. And, and there’s definitely something there for all of us to learn from. Like, if, if you are, if there’s an aversion there, like whenever I look to myself, whenever I’m the most like, oh no, I don’t wanna do that. It’s because I, we get defensive because there’s a, an element of truth. That’s the thing about defensiveness.
It comes up when we actually connect with something that’s being said to us. And so that’s the thing that I keep reminding myself. It’s just like, it is worth it. It is worth it. Even though it’s energy consuming, you know, it requires energy. It requires attention, but it is, it is worth it because on the other side is the possibility for the world that we actually
Duncan Autrey: wanna live in.
Yeah. Yeah. that’s really just like, yeah. Listening to those little whispers of the heart, the ping of regret, the pings of pain, the pings of like, you know, glee and, and, and fear. And like, that’s probably something you’re really worthwhile paying attention to and whatever. And if we see other people having those feelings too, like, it’s a great time to listen, man.
It’s like, why are these people doing this? Why are they smashing the capital? Why are they burning the down Nordstroms? It’s like, oh, you probably should go ask them because I bet they have a good answer for you. probably something to really important to them is, is, is at stake here. yeah,
Olga Liapsis-Muzzy: mm-hmm, the opposite of judgment is curiosity.
And that is one of the, just most tangible tools that we have is asking questions and just opening up a curious mind instead of deciding that you already, what the answer is, So if you take nothing else away, folks, from mediation. It is that questions
Duncan Autrey: are good. Yeahing is great. Is really important. And, and, and, and even more than listening is actually helping the person know that they’ve been heard, you know, like, like the reflect.
I know this was like a lesson you learned about like that reflective listening of like, okay, why don’t you say back to the prison, what you just heard them say, and that’s gonna clarify, you know, but if you could tell someone back to them exactly what it is, they said, you don’t have to agree with it. You don’t have to really believe in it.
But if you could say back to them like that, that opens up a huge door. That’s yeah.
Olga Liapsis-Muzzy: Mm-hmm mm-hmm I mean, that’s empathy and empathy is, is it’s. It’s one of those magic ingredients of healing being understood and having the experience of being heard and being understood. Allows us to then be more open to other people’s perspectives.
Once we feel truly understood. That’s when the barriers are more likely to come down and we’re more likely to say, okay, I feel taken care of now, which allows me to have enough spoons and enough capacity to actually hear you and your pain. Cuz my pain has been attended to even a little bit, even if it’s not fully, we’re not done yet, but even that tiny little bit gives us so much more capacity in
Duncan Autrey: that conversation.
So totally. That’s definitely something that, yeah, it really is like the one lesson and it’s like, and the trigger for me sometimes is when I feel like I need to tell someone something and like slow down. My friend used to say like conflict is what happens or bad conflict is what happens when someone wants to be heard so much that they stop listening and
what would it be like to be that other person? Like what if this is actually a really good young person? Who’s just trying to tell you something. Absolutely. Oh gosh. Oh, this is so good. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Olga Liapsis-Muzzy: What fun? Thank you so much. Duncan. Total pleasure.
About this episode’s guest
Olga Liapis-Muzzy is a DC based mediator, coach, facilitator, and trainer working for social transformation. She comes from a lineage of teachers and organizers and spent the first 10 years of her career helping workers find a place in their union, improve their capacity to negotiate with management, and build strong collectives. As a labor trainer she facilitated workshops for thousands of workers across the U.S.A in states like New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Maryland, California, and Alaska.
Olga received her training as a mediator and restorative justice practitioner from the Center of Dispute Resolution and the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP). Olga specializes in helping organizations, workplaces, families and communities stay together. She loves handling multi-party disputes; one-on-one coaching; mediation; training; facilitation; and conflict systems assessment and redesign. She maintains a trauma-informed, anti-racist, and judgement-free practice. She works and lives by the motto that correction is a gift.
Olga, with Duncan, is an active member of the Democracy, Politics and Conflict Engagement Initiative (DPACE Initiative) which brings conflict literacy skills to social change organizations and communities.
Topics Discussed in Episode
Ken Cloke is a world-recognized mediator, dialogue facilitator, conflict resolution systems designer, teacher, public speaker, author of numerous books and articles, and a pioneer and leader in the field of mediation and conflict resolution for the last 37 years.
He is also a teacher and mentor for both Duncan and Olga.
Books from Ken Cloke
Podcasts with Ken Cloke
Esther Perel is a Belgian psychotherapist of who has explored the tension between the need for security (love, belonging and closeness) and the need for freedom (erotic desire, adventure and distance) in human relationships.
Perel is the host of the podcast Where Should We Begin?, which is based inside her therapist’s office as she sees anonymous couples in search of insight into topics such as infidelity, sexlessness and grief.
Here is how Olga describes her wisdom in the podcast episode:
Esther Perel talks about this in a really wonderful way. She talks about how relationships are connection, disconnection, reconnection. That’s what a relationship is. It’s that you might have, you know the honeymoon period, whether you’re in a romantic relationship or not, but where you’re really clicking, everything’s really good.
And then you have your first moment of true disconnection. And then if you’re able to reconnect, that’s where the relationship continues. And in that moment of reconnection is where we actually build trust.
John Paul Lederach
In his book The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace Lederach presents a Framework for Peacebuilding that takes into account the past, the present and the various systemic influences on a conflict. You can read more about the book and the Framework for Peacebuilding.
San Francisco School Board and Ann Hsu’s Comments
Olga and I discuss the fallout over racist remarks from SF School Board Commissioner Ann Hsu’s racist remarks. Here are a series of articles from the San Francisco Chronicle that put the conversation in context.
- “More want school board member out over remarks” (Jill Tucker, July 24, 2022)
- “After chaotic meeting, S.F. school board unanimously admonishes commissioner Ann Hsu over racist remarks” (Jill Tucker, Aug 2, 2022)
- “This is what’s missing from the fallout over latest S.F. school board scandal” (Justin Phillips, Aug 7, 2022)
Quotations on Forgiveness
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn on Good and Evil
The following quotation comes from The Gulag Archipelago, a book by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, 1973.
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
I discuss this quotation in depth in this essay and the video below:
“Forgiveness Is Giving Up All Hope of a Better Past”
The origins of this quotation are currently unknown. The earliest written source attributes the quote to Rev. Don Felt, pastor of the Iao Congregational Church in Maui, but its origins may be in the 12-Step community. Read more from Quote Investigator here.
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.
Fans of the Omni-Win project podcast will enjoy this collection of episodes: https://www.fractalfriends.us/transforming-politics about Transforming Politics and Healing Democracy