People in conversation

How to Start a Hard Conversation About the Israel-Hamas War

Longtime Essential Partners collaborator and consultant Karen Ross, associate professor with UMass Boston’s Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security, and Global Governance, recently spoke to WBUR's The Common about having difficult discussions of the Israel-Hamas war.

Note: click here to download our new resource, 5 Practices to Have a Healthier Conversation About the Israel-Hamas War in Gaza

Karen's insights are instructive and practical. They also echo the best practices of our Reflective Structured Dialogue approach:

  • Clarify your purpose, lean into curiosity. "Maybe it's someone you work with or your neighbor or someone who you're close friends with and you don't see eye-to-eye on some of these things. Then I think there's a space for a conversation there, but also helpful to think about why are we going to have this conversation now? What's our goal in having it?"
  • Be aware of the identities the other person holds and how they might affect their perspective. “The identity groups that someone belongs to are not necessarily reflective of what they believe. I think it offers us an opportunity to remember that we're all more than just who we're born to and what religion we follow, or what our passport says. And that's an opportunity to learn maybe also what some of the nuances are, what people believe and why this is so difficult for everybody."
  • Speak out of your own experience. “There is a lot of anger, but that anger is also connected to other things, maybe sadness, guilt, helplessness; a lot of other emotions that people are feeling. And speaking from the experience of those emotions rather than kind of general categories is one way [to have better conversations].”

“I believe to my core in the power of dialogue,” she notes, “but it's not a panacea… it is a way of creating connections across divisions, and those connections can then be important in figuring out how to move forward together.”

A writer, translator, and editor, Daniel Pritchard serves as the Director of Marketing and Communications for Essential Partners.