Dear colleagues in Jewish-Palestinian dialogue and bridge-building,

Bernike Carstarphen ( is a completing her Ph.D. research in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University

Her research dissertation is titled: "Shift Happens: Transformation during small group intervention in protracted social conflicts."

Nike's findings help us better understand dialogue and how to begin.  She says:

"I realized that one of the main messages I heard from people in dialogue groups is the power of hearing the "other's" personal stories.  This contrasts with the emphasis in the Conflict Resolution field on rational, problem-solving processes as the key to resolving conflicts."

Part of Nike's study tested the efficacy of hearing personal stories versus rational explanations from the other side on changing people's attitudes toward the other side and the conflict situation in a simulated inter-ethnic conflict. For people in dialogue, there is considerable meaning in the analysis of her findings: 

1.  Compared to rational explanations, personal stories were much more effective for changing people's attitudes in a positive direction.

2.  Both approaches together were more effective than either approach alone.

3.  It was more effective to use the personal stories approach in advance of the rational explanations.