Radicalization: A Perception of Power

“Radicalization (or radicalisation) is a process by which an individual or group comes to adopt increasingly extreme political, social, or religious ideals and aspirations that (1) reject or undermine the status quo or (2) reject and/or undermine contemporary ideas and expressions of freedom of choice.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radicalization

If I am to interpret the above definition correctly then groups such as; political parties (U.S: Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Tea Party), Pro-life, Pro-choice, Environmentalists, Labor Unions, etc. , all can have factions deemed to be radicalized. So why do we keep hearing the same question over and over via our news media regarding the apparent ease by which our global youth is being radicalized.

I believe we are asking the wrong questions. We’re not having the difficult conversations that must be had in every family, community and country. The question is not ‘how’… but ‘why’?

It is the why that makes it difficult, because then we would have to truthfully discuss the ugly reality that so many in our world, especially young people are facing daily; war, violence, hate, social and economic inequality, and yes…the almighty race and religion conversation, which then must also lead to the acknowledgement of bigotry. If we were willing to ask the why questions, then perhaps we could begin to initiate the necessary dialogue, especially with our youth. The images they see, the stories they hear, the daily survival that many are faced with, how can they not become enraged; I dare say many of us feel the same way. The difference for those of us who are fortunate enough to engage in conversations, dialogues, is that then we can express how we feel without fear of judgment, and it is through this process of expressing and listening that we learn, we understand. Hopefully transform our inner rage into positive action.

Youth that feels lost, alienated, hopeless, bullied, devalued, are and will continue to fall prey to any group that offers them a different world, especially if that difference is associated with ‘power’, and power is an opiate. Radicalization is the result of the attainment of perceived power. If we want to stop the manipulation of our vulnerable populations by those who preach fear and hate, then we must be willing to have the difficult conversations and more important we must be willing to listen with authenticity.

Crystina Wyler is President of The Artful Communicator, a firm providing creative methods to facilitate communication and transform conflict.



Community-Enabled Escalation

DJ2Darin Jones is a marketing and communications expert, helping international organizations and non-profits educate and inspire their global audiences. The views expressed are his own.

The shootings of three young people in Chapel Hill, NC have sparked outrage. Some see it as a hate crime, others as a result of an unbalanced mind. The alleged killer, Craig Stephen Hicks, is condemned while the victims are mourned. However, a February 12th New York Times article  has me thinking about the role of the community in this event, and the contributions it made to the situation that unfolded.

The article quotes neighbors who described Mr. Hicks as an angry man. ““I have seen and heard him be very unfriendly to a lot of people in this community,” said [resident] Samantha Maness. She said that Mr. Hicks had displayed “equal opportunity anger” and that “he kind of made everyone feel uncomfortable and unsafe”” (para. 4). It is mentioned that he would bring weapons when confronting others. There is clearly a conflict in place. So what did the community do about this? They held a meeting about him in 2014 – without him there. Police say a complaint was never filed with them regarding his behavior, and I would guess the apartment management company didn’t receive one either.

Steven A. Beebe and John T. Masterson in their book on group communication describe five conflict management methods: collaboration (all agree on a mutually beneficial solution), compromise (all agree on an acceptable solution), competition (one idea wins over another, but all are not satisfied), accommodation (one yields to another’s idea to keep things moving but does not agree) and avoidance (conflict continues but is ignored in hopes that it will resolve itself). The community chose an avoidance strategy with Mr. Hicks, to not deal with what was clearly a problem in their midst, and in doing so became a contributing factor in the results.

By allowing conflict to fester, it intensifies and deepens. The individual becomes more empowered in seeing the results of their competition and escalates further. Yet community members turn their head, whether out of fear or a desire to not draw attention. What if the community had sought mediation, working with police or the management team to sit down with Mr. Hicks and discuss how they perceived his behaviors? What about inviting him to the meeting they had so he could offer his views? Either of these would have at least offered an opportunity for de-escalation and steps towards conflict resolution.

In my team communication course we discuss the role of the “bad apple” in the work environment, the member who does not align with community expectations and creates issues with others. These individuals have the capability over time to destroy any cohesive group, but are often not addressed until something significant takes place. While the Chapel Hill event is night and day compared to a workplace issue, the underlying concepts are the same. Conflict that is not addressed does not go away. Whether in the workplace or in the broader society, communities must recognize that they have responsibilities to deal with conflicts, no matter how small, in a collaborative manner that allows for true resolution. Otherwise these stories repeat again.

“The Words We Choose”

Dialogue leads to understanding!  *)O(*

Dialogue leads to understanding!

 “We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out.” Sir Winston Churchill

            Words have always been an important part of my life perhaps because growing up in a family of artists, humanitarians and politicians, words and the power they carry are part of my genetic fiber. If words and their use were important to me before, recent worldwide events have shown us the power they yield and even more so are the layers that they create. It is in those layers, created and loaded with emotional triggers, that I believe the seeds for conflict, positive and negative, take root. It depends on how the seeds are nurtured that the resulting tree will grow strong and tall, or collapse during its first storm.

I just used words in a sentence that provide a visual effect, and if you read it silently you’ll experience something different than if you read them out loud. The first thing we hear is ‘how’ something is said, that leads to an immediate emotional reaction. Then we focus on ‘what’ is actually being said; however, we are already formulating a thought based on our initial organic reaction to the ‘how’. Important as well is ‘when’ something is said, it’s all about the timing. Are we totally engaged and listening, or because of a distraction are we only hearing part of the message? Are we responding to full sentences or just sound bites? Precisely because ‘sound bites’ have become an important component to how news is shared, the specific use of words is crucial. How we define an event or to whom we apply responsibility for that event, when using sound bites can completely change a perception or reality.  So the next time you hear or read something that rocks you to the core…take a moment before you pass it on. What is the message you received, why are you passing it on, and most important what will be the end result?

Crystina Wyler is President of The Artful Communicator, a firm providing creative methods to facilitate communication and transform conflict.


The “experts” keep talking….

Dialogue leads to understanding!  *)O(*

Dialogue leads to understanding!

The ‘experts’ keep talking about how to “stop, destroy, battle…” the terrorist cells around the world. I believe that there’s a fundamental “difficult but gut honest conversation” that must be had among families, communities, governments…
how are we failing our youth? what are we not providing them with, that radical movements, “gangs”, are offering and enticing them with?

We have to focus more on the transformation and not the destruction.

More on the root cause, and not on the band-aids.

Band aids fall off! The time has come to address the wounding, the root…viruses/ cells…don’t disappear, they morph!

Crystina Wyler is President of The Artful Communicator, a firm providing creative methods to facilitate communication and transform conflict.


Do we need a communication “make-over”?

talking 34505767Lately it seems to me that we are all talking, but few are communicating.

I thought about this in the context of how dependent we have all become on this medium that I am now attempting to communicate with you through. Don’t get me wrong…I am a huge supporter of it, because it has allowed me to connect with people and organizations globally. However, as with anything else, there’s an art to keeping it balanced. Just in the last few days I have had conversations…live ones, with colleagues and friends, who expressed the same frustration, “why can’t I get through to them?” As a communication and conflict specialist, the challenge was on.

So here are some thoughts, use them or not. I’m not reinventing the wheel, just reminding ourselves on the importance of ‘how’ we communicate. If it’s something absolutely important to ‘you’:

Make certain that you have a clear understanding of your message, what do you want to communicate. Just because it’s important to you, doesn’t necessarily mean it will be to the other person/s.

How do you want to communicate, in person, via telephone, email, chat, text, twitter? Every single one of these requires a specifically different approach.

These next two for me are crucial: timing and cultural sensitivity. Exactly because we are now so capable of communicating globally, these two are huge factors that overlooked,can lead to miscommunication and conflict. By timing, I do basically mean the time zone and day. Where are you located and where is the person/s you are trying to reach?

Cultural sensitivity is as important, maybe to you sending a text message or a chat message marked ‘high importance’ is sufficient, but is it to the other person? Perhaps to them a phone call signifies ‘high importance’.

I was reading an article about ‘make-overs’ for businesses, and the term struck me, maybe it’s not so much that we need to learn how to communicate. We need to adjust our communication knowledge to our 21st century personal and professional lives and to our technology. The challenges that lead to miscommunication are a constant because of the complexity of who we are; human beings, with all our positive and negative layers. However, the ability to communicate is our unique tool, how we choose to use that tool does require thought and adjustments, and in some cases, a ‘make-over’ will have terrific results.

Crystina Wyler is President of The Artful Communicator, a firm providing creative methods to facilitate communication and transform conflict.