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Learning How to See 

by Milly Sinclair (2023)


Unconscious Bias and working with conflict as a Systemic Conflict Transformation Practitioner (SCT)


To work with conflict, you must be objective, non-partisan- impartial and clear thinking.    I used to pride myself on being all those things.  With a vague shudder I now look back at the 25 years of being a practitioner working with relational, community and organisational conflicts, and I realise I rarely was.    In fact, the longer I have been a practitioner of this work, the clearer I am around this unsettling and uncomfortable fact.     


Even in my most relaxed self, I see the world through a particular lens, passed down from my experience, my family, my culture, and my education.   In conflict, whether it's my own, or other peoples, I am even more likely to find safety in my blinkered ways of seeing.   If I am not careful, I make snap judgments around who is right and who is wrong, who to listen to, and who to ignore, who I like and who I don’t, what information to include, and what to exclude.   In contemporary parlance, this is my unconscious bias at play.  It’s like I’m driving a car with a besmirched windshield that clouds my ability to see clearly.  Dangerous in any situation, let alone conflict, as we can crash. 

“Unconscious bias is when we make judgments or decisions on the basis of our prior experience, our own personal deep-seated thought patterns, assumptions or interpretations, and we are not aware that we are doing it.”

 (Oxford Dictionary definition)

Unconscious bias impacts everyone.  It is part of being human and has helped us survive for millennia.  

There are many biases, but I’m going to share some of the ones that I believe impact our ‘way of seeing’ as SCT (Systemic Conflict Transformation) practitioners.   From Brian McLaren’s book: “Unconscious Bias:  Learning how to see.”   Helpfully, for memory, they all begin with ‘C.   Have a look at the list and reflect on a conflict you are in, or have been brought in to ‘help’, which are the biases that are most impacting you.

confirmation bias
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