Patrizia08 / Pixabay

The ability to have respectful, calm, rational, considered, fact-based discussion is a core of resolving conflict.

These are the biggest obstacles to constructive discourse:

1. Belief/faith: opinions and interpretations over verifiable facts. We are all attached to our opinions, and easily fall into defending and arguing to be right. Constructive discussion cannot happen when parties resort to defensiveness. Verifiable facts must necessarily be the basis, the shared common ground from which to build understanding and consensus. Otherwise the discussion falls into defining/redefining the meaning of words and concepts.

2. Strong emotions: feelings as equivalent to reality. We are emotional creatures. Strong emotions interfere with clear thinking. Self-awareness and active emotional management are important techniques in any discussion. Our emotions can feel like reality, but they may not be actual reality. We may dislike something intensely, but that intensity does not affect the actuality of that something. This can be a difficult concept to grasp because we are not used to evaluating our emotions critically and objectively.

3. Identity: committed to a narrative without shares of nuance. A significant part of our self-identity is vested in external identities that we have introjected. This is just the way we are wired. We can get caught up defending an identity, a tribe, that we identify with. The problem with identities is that each encapsulates a myriad of smaller issues. Identities inevitably remove a lot of the nuance that is critical to constructive discussions.