David Kimball writes about his training as a Reconciliation Leader

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My Journey with Reconciliation Leadership  by David Kimball

Reconciliation Leadership?  What will that mean in my life when I can say “I’m certified in Reconciliation Leadership”?  I had a vague idea of what Reconciliation meant, but it didn’t reach out much beyond trying to reconcile what others had pretty much given up as “irreconcilable differences”.  And through the UN, reconciliation seemed to be in the context of warring factors likeBosniaor thePhilippines.  But no concept of “reconciliation” seem to come out as far as my life went.

I was working for a major firm in computers and finance.  And I wasn’t looking for a career change.  I didn’t see how reconciliation could possibly affect my life.  But I still signed up for the program because I was hungry for anything to do with the United Nations.  I had recently gone through a period of self-reflection and decided that I no longer want to be considered an American or a member of any tribe or nation.  So I started calling myself a Global Citizen instead.  And then I go to studying what it meant to be a Global Citizen and realize that the good that was happening throughout the world was really happening through the more than 25,000 Non Government Organizations (NGOs).  But all these NGOs were working in collaboration with the UN Agencies in the civil sector.

After discovering that the UN Agencies, UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO, etc. were working and trying to lead these 25,000 NGOs in making progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), I realized that this was where one could put the walk with the talk about being a Global Citizen.  But how would one get involved with this work?  The best way, for me, was to take a crash course in the workings of the United Nations.  And one of the ways of taking a crash course on the United Nations was to enroll in this program for Reconciliation Leadership which would include a great deal of information about the UN and would include some workshops being held there, and also an opportunity to meet some movers and shakers such as Ambassador Choudhury who was one of the chief sponsors of the certification program.  So I signed up even though I had no idea what Reconciliation Leadership would entail.

One of the first things I appreciated about this RL program was its focus on reflection rather than reaction.  Our society generally promotes quick reaction without reflection.  But these workshops emphasized reflection.  We engaged in workshops that promoted envisioning the future and then describing these visions to others.  We learned to reflect on the importance on space for where we lived and worked.

And as we learned many of the principles for Reconciliation, principles even for armed conflict, it occurred to me that this was applicable for any Joe who happened to live in Any City,USA.  Reconciliation was really a part of Conflict Management.  And although we could define conflict in terms of international conflict, or even intranational conflict, the same principles could be applicable for interpersonal conflict.  And we all are surrounded by interpersonal conflict wherever we live.  And then I realized that these principles for conflict would not only be applicable for international conflict and also interpersonal conflicts, but also internal conflicts.  And we all experience internal conflicts within ourselves.

And so these principles started to take on a much more personal meaning.  Reconciliation, or conflict management starts in with listening to all sides in a nonjudgmental way.  Even internal conflict needs to have the different “warring” sides listened to.  Personally, if I have an internal conflict of prejudice, I should not just pick the good side and discount the bad side of the conflict.  I need to listen to the bad side and address what it is trying to tell me.  Only by recognizing the various sides, can I manage the conflict.

This listening, on whatever level, needs to include nonjudgmental listening – or Active Listening.  And it needs to include Empathy.  Empathy is really understanding what and why a person thinks and feels the way(s) that they do.  Without empathy, we are only imposing our own values and judgments onto someone.  And self-empathy is also very important as is evidenced by anyone who has taken the Nonviolent Communications workshop.

Reflection, listening, nonjudgmentally, talking, considering options, understanding.  These were all principles of Reconciliation which are also principles of Conflict Management and are principles which are important for whatever level of conflict we are dealing with – international, interpersonal, or internal.  And so this program of multiple workshops on Reconciliation Leadership took on a relevance that I wasn’t prepared for when I began.

As for the Leadership part of the program, through a series of self-examinations such as the Myers-Briggs and the Enneagram tests we were able to complete an inventory of our strengths and our weaknesses.  Because a Leader must be self-aware and know his or her strengths and weaknesses.  This included a great deal of development of the Interpersonal Intelligence as well as the Intrapersonal Intelligence – the two Intelligences which make up the Emotional intelligence.

Because the workshops were small in size, they allowed a great amount of interaction between us as students and our leaders, and also among other students.  And this allowed us to reflect and then describe our own thoughts and feelings in ways that most of us have never had the opportunity to do before.  And with the emphasis on reflection, we were reflecting on what was being said, and also reflection on what and how we were going to express our thoughts and feelings.  And reflection is one of the great marks of a leader.  And so our communications skills were honed along with our empathic skills.

And so I came away from these workshops with a great appreciation for the skills needed for reconciliation, conflict management, communications, empathy and reflection.  And all of these skills are just as important and just as pertinent for someone doing reconciliation work inBosniaas for someone working a regular job in any town,USA.