The impacts of Misunderstanding, Miscommunication and Misperception
The 2017 Smile Annual Conference at the Blackburn Enterprise Centre drew a high level of interest with a theme relevant to current society in its cultural, social, and political misunderstandings. A variety of organisations such as Humraaz, Child Action North West, Ribble Valley Homes, Blackburn with Darwen Council, and Lancashire Police were in attendance. This was an afternoon which highlighted the importance of listening and empathising with others.
The conference began with a presentation from Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, and Chair to Smile Mediation, Paul Iganski. ‘Violence and Emotion’ offered the audience an insight into the true impact of ‘hate violence’ and how, in cases where an individual’s identity is attacked, statistically the emotional response is higher than that of any other crime. Delegates described this research as ‘a new perspective’ and the presentation has even inspired a few attendees to explore the subject further.
Following Paul, Baptist Minister and Trainer Joanna Williams explained the progression of conflict, highlighting how a specific problem can escalate and lead to polarisation where parties have become defensive, added more issues to the original problem, refused to communicate, and eventually ‘nothing can ever be the same again.’
This was beautifully demonstrated by AFTA Thought in what Joanna aptly named ‘I wish I’d known.’ AFTA Thought showcased the stages of conflict through a facilitated drama session in which Joanna ‘mediated’ two very real characters who were extremely well-received by the audience, the actors being referred to as ‘mind-blowing’ in their performance.
After a break filled with networking, Victims’ Voice Outreach Worker Josh Durham focused on ‘Interactions and Ignorance.’ The social, physical, economical and emotional effects hate crimes and incidents can have on individuals and their families linked to current issues such as Brexit, and how this political decision has impacted communities. A few members of the audience said that ‘I learnt things that I didn’t know,’ and that as a result ‘I will definitely be more aware of how I come across, and speak up when I see people being spoken to in an ignorant way.’
To close, Director of Restorative Approaches in Housing, John Stevenson, shared a number of case studies which showcased not only the difference between Mediation and Restorative Justice, but how Restorative Approaches can better the lives of individuals. While in Mediation both parties are working towards a shared agreement, Restorative Justice offers the victim the chance to speak to the perpetrator and gain understanding, whilst inspiring empathy in the perpetrator. The cases described were ‘very engaging and moving.’