People tend to be conflict averse. We do a quick Google search for the word conflict, we get very negative search results. If we look at my search results, we see terms like struggle, disagreement, argument, clash, plus pictures of people fighting. Even more than that if we dive deeper, there's conflict theories that deal with imbalances of power within society. We also hear armed conflict as a sanitized way of describing violent behavior between humans. Looking up relationship conflict brings up disagreements or arguments, typically between spouses. At the same time, conflict avoidance or avoiding addressing the issue head-on is a real problem for someone's overall well-being and can impede progress in the workplace. Why chaos? Why do we have such a negative view on conflict and yet if we avoid conflict it causes us more trouble? More importantly for our purposes here, what has conflict have to do with science communication? At the end of the day, we communicate best when in relationships with others. Whenever that relationship means and you're given context and with relationships, come conflict, is a normal and expected phenomenon. Even more importantly, conflict leads to growth and change. I don't think it's a fluke that psychologist Erik Erikson's descriptions of psychosocial development, in particularly the eight psychosocial stages, are distinguished as a person works through a conflict or crisis before moving on to the next stage. For example, during the first year-and-a-half of a person's life, they must work through the conflict of trust and distrust. As science communicators, it's important, but these overwhelming narratives of conflict as bad behind us. We need to accept conflict is a necessary part of our work, we need to evaluate for the opportunities for growth and the opportunities for communication too, difficulties or opportunities too. I love this quote by Faith Kearns in her book, Getting to the Heart of Science Communication. "A real paradox of conflict is that while it can be highly uncomfortable, it also provides opportunity." I don't need to tell any of you. There is a major scientific issues facing people around the world today. As science communicators, we really have our jobs cut out for us. Conflict has transformative power and through empathic listening can help us better understand each other the issues at stake, and find better resolution and better communication strategies. I also can't say this enough, conflict is normal, but normal doesn't mean easy. What we talked about earlier in this course and then we'll come back to later in this module is that we have to make sure we're in the right mindset to stay calm during stressful events like conflict. We need to always make sure that if we're going to be engaging with the public, that we can respond and not react to whatever comes our way. An important first step is the acknowledgment and acceptance of conflict as part of our roles as science communicators. Once we do that, we can develop practices for managing it. This includes many of the skills we've talked about in this specialization; motivational interviewing, empathic listening, the role of nonverbals. Many conflicts researchers discuss how other rising can fuel conflict. This leads to people more strongly associated with their in-group, the people they identify with and dehumanizing the out-group, the other group of people. This causes issues to devolve into us versus them and we lose nuance and the opportunity for empathy. Another important consideration to make when dealing with conflict as science communicators is that many of the issues we need to communicate about fall into the category of intractable conflict. An intractable conflict is one that is durable, drawn out, polarizing, and not easily addressed with standard conflict management techniques like mediation or negotiation. A major tenant of just about any science communication training you'll see is the importance of distilling information down into key points or your take-home message, is something we'll talk about in Course 3. However, when presenting an intractable conflict, too much distilling can make a conflict worse. Taking out the conflict, taking out the complexity, pulling all the emotions out, not mentioning where people are, have been or could be hurt, heightens mistrust of scientists and sends the message that that person's perspective, it doesn't matter here. Of course, it's important to have a good take-home message and to build around that. But be careful not to dehumanize or overly simplifying an intractable conflict. If addressing climate change for simple, we wouldn't still be talking about it. Intractable conflicts can be a good place to bring in activities like case studies or interviews, depending on your communication method of choice. Perhaps with extremely complex issues, you focus your take-home message on one key aspect of that conflict. Art can also be an excellent and accessible catalyst to discussion of complicated issues without overwhelming your audience. Always remember to be open to feedback. Our main perspective is always our own and it's unlikely we can identify with all of the stakeholders in a situation. In intractable conflicts, it can make it difficult to tell when one conflict starts and another begins. Conflicts even so conflicts within a bigger conflicts aren't all one size fits all. One social justice problem isn't the same and maybe shouldn't be addressed as the same with another, a key practice to hold onto is to always leave the human element in. If we otherwise, if we dehumanize, we make conflict worse. There's also value in knowing when to engage and when to disengage. This has different considerations depending on your media of choice and what you personally can manage. Some conflicts are not worth engaging in if they come at the expense of your mental or physical health. In our next reading, we'll learn about different types of conflict and conflict resolution strategies. Then we'll discuss where and why hostility can manifest towards the scientific enterprise and strategies for managing it.