OTPIC Officially Retired

As of December 2, 2005, the Online Training Program on Intractable Conflict (OTPIC) has been officially retired, and is no longer open to new registrations.

The successor to OTPIC is a course called Dealing Constructively with Intractable Conflicts (DCIC). The new curriculum is built around one of our major projects, Beyond Intractability, and offers a much more extensive and informative set of learning materials than that available through OTPIC.

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International Online Training Program On Intractable Conflict

Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA

Stereotype-Breaking Actions

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Stereotype breaking actions are actions that one party can take to prove to their opponents that they are better in character than the opponent assumes. For example, one party may visit the opponent personally, and be more reasonable, more friendly, more agreeable, or more helpful than the opponent expected. When this happens, they are likely to revise their enemy image at least a little bit, concluding that some members of the opposition are reasonable people, or even that the opponents, in general, are more reasonable than they thought they were. Anwar Sadat's first trip to Jerusalem was a stereotype-breaking action. No one in Israel thought he would come at all, and when he did, he was much more reasonable, and much more personable than most Israelis expected. The same was true of Mikhail Gorbachev's first visit to the United States. Gorbachev was very warm and friendly toward the American people, and they were very much captivated by him. This effectively broke down many people's stereotypes of Russians as hostile, cold, and aggressive, and replaced those images with an image much more friendly and open.

In addition to making trips to the opposing country or group, other stereotype breaking actions are possible as well. One must simply determine what the other side thinks of you or expects of you, and then do the opposite. If you are expected to be closed to new ideas, express and interest in listening to new approaches to the problem. If you are expected to be selfish and aggressive, take a nonassertive stance and make a small concession that demonstrates good will and a willingness to cooperate with the other side. The goal is simply to contradict the negative images that people usually have of their opponents, and begin to replace these negative images with more positive ones.

 

Links to Examples of such Stereotype-Breaking Actions:

 

J. William Breslin-- Breaking Away from Subtle Biases
This article gives examples of common stereotypes and discusses ways they can be avoided or altered.
Dennis Sandole and Hugo van der Merwe --Brezhnev visits West Germany
This short anecdote tells about a moment of reconciliation between Soviet Premier Brezhnev and West German Chancellor Schmidt. Though not as dramatic, perhaps, as Gorbachev's visit to the United States or Sadat's trip to Jerusalem, it did change the nature of the relationship between the two men.
Stephen Ryan--Peace-Building and Conflict Transformation
Ryan discusses a variety of stereotype breaking actions that can be used to encourage peace-building and conflict transformation.
 
Robert Karl Manoff--The Media's Role in Preventing and Moderating Conflict
Just as the media can contribute toward negative stereotypes, they can also do much to help break down such stereotypes and moderate escalated conflicts.
 
Paul Wehr--Reality Reconstruction Workshops
These workshops focused on breaking negative stereotypes of the opponent.

 

Links to Outside Examples of Approaches to Breaking Down Stereotypes

Creating Systemic Interventions for the Sociopolitical Arena - by Richard Chasin and Margaret Herzig of the Public Conversations Project   
This article describes in detail several workshops they have held to break down stereotypes in a variety of international and national sociopolitical conflicts.  Both the theory and methods of their interventions are described, and information is given about replicating their process in other settings.
 
Facilitating Problem Solving in Internationalized Conflicts by AJR Groom in the New Zealand Institute for Dispute Resolution Archives
This article shows how problem solving can be extremely useful in breaking down stereotypes.
 
David Little and Paul Mojzes--Religion and the Future of Intercommunal Relations in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Former Yugoslavia
 

Links to Related Solutions:

Question Stereotypes

Opening Lines of Communication

 

Links to Related Problems:

Inaccurate and Overly Hostile Stereotypes

Failure to Understand an Opponent's Perspective


Copyright 1998 Conflict Research Consortium  -- Contact: crc@colorado.edu