Having brave conversations around the dinner table

by | Aug 31, 2017

Our responses when we were asked ‘how does conflict make you feel?’ Photo credit: Frank Hardy

By Rachel Clark

Every season, Welcome Dinner Project volunteers gather for a free ‘professional development’ training session. The aim of these trainings is to give us the knowledge, skills and questions to go deeper in serving the vision and values of the Welcome Dinner Project. Sometimes these sessions are run by professional trainers but often our volunteers are experts in different areas and generously offer their skills and wisdom to each other. We’ve run sessions on Understanding Islam, Acknowledging Country and this season’s training was focused on Managing Conflict.

On a chilly morning on Saturday 26 August, Welcome Dinner volunteers gathered in Melbourne to learn more about managing conflict.

Two Melbourne based WDP Facilitators who are conflict management experts – Leta Chen of Momentum Changing Mindsets and Frank Handy of The Trillium Group – guided us through a variety of topics including understanding ourselves and how conflict makes us feel, how our brain works when it comes to conflict (watch this great video!), understanding when and why conflicts develop and what to do when that happens (through listening techniques and identifying values).

As I sat absorbed by the content it occurred to me that my preconceptions of where we may encounter conflict was misplaced. Yes, we may have the occasional awkward moment based on misunderstanding or miscommunication during a Welcome Dinner and the training certainly gave us the skills to further manage these moments.  

However, the more profound learning for me was about how important it is equip us as change makers to have those brave conversations about the topics that we feel passionate about: human rights, multiculturalism, dignity, welcome.  

At the end of the training, the room was afloat with new ideas and a sense of the gravity of opportunity that had been extended to us all. We felt more equipped to have those brave conversations, thanks to the new tools we had been equipped with.  

Here are some other reflections shared by our volunteers who participated in the training:

“The workshop has been very effective in understanding what conflicts are and how the brain works in these situations. I do also think that I got in touch with a range of different strategies and methods which I will try to apply if I happen to get into a conflict again. Also, the environment during the workshop has been very safe, positive, respectful, engaging and our two ’teachers’ were simply amazing.”

“I learned so much about how my own brain operates, it will be really useful in my day-to-day moving forward! I really appreciated learning that we can rewire our brains to react with less stress and anxiety in various situations and so cut down on overall levels of stress.”

“I loved learning about how to create space for someone we may be experiencing conflict with by getting them to unconsciously acknowledge their emotions, name them, and therefore switch back to their logical, thinking brain.”

If this sounds like training that would interest you, consider becoming a WDP volunteer! Our next Melbourne induction will be happening in summer, you can express your interest here. Any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us at vic@joiningthedots.org.

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