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The Courage to Listen in Conflicts

by Lorraine Segal
May 2012

Conflict Remedy Blog by Lorraine Segal

Lorraine Segal

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”—Winston Churchill

What does it take to sit down and listen to someone we disagree with, instead of dismissing them as the enemy or turning to violence?

First we must accept that they are full and imperfect human beings, just as we are, not cardboard characters in our own personal or professional drama.

Second, we must understand that good people can hold different beliefs and opinions. We may find their views wrong or event abhorrent, but must not equate that with believing they are themselves evil.

We must also understand that listening isn’t the same as agreeing. We can listen to the perspective, history, and motivations of others without abandoning our own beliefs. We can embrace their humanity and acknowledge what we have in common even when we disagree.

Instead of demonizing them as the enemy, we must find a way to open our hearts and spirits to a bigger reality holding multiple truths. This can be a frightening concept to those who find safety in holding fast to narrow certainties.

My work as a communication coach and mediator is always to offer support and gentle awareness that strengthens clients’ compassion for themselves and others. With willingness and practice, we can all find peaceful, creative ways to work through conflicts and honor our differences.


Lorraine Segal is a certified Conflict Management coach and teacher, specializing in communication and conflict resolution in the workplace. For many years a middle manager and tenured community college professor, she has her own business, Conflict Remedy LLC.

In her organizational consulting, classes, and coaching, she helps people learn new skills, get “unstuck” from negative stories, and shift their patterns of thinking and reacting so they can learn to: communicate clearly, resolve conflict effectively, and contribute to a more harmonious and productive workplace.

She currently teaches at Sonoma State University, Santa Rosa Junior College, and St. Joseph Health Life Learning Center (Memorial Hospital) and works with various businesses and organizations. 

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