“Dignity is something we all deserve no matter what we do. It is the starting point for the way we treat one another. ” Donna Hicks

These last three months, I have presented and discussed the Speaking Justice method to about 500 people. These interactions are essential in keeping the method alive in the present moment and to bending it to meet the evolving needs and issues in our society.

Many people have shared with me their challenges in having conversations on critical race theory, masks or vaccination with people they love or people they have to interact with. 

Many have also shared how the level of pain and distrust is affecting their communities and making it difficult to work collaboratively to solve pressing problems. 

I am always looking for more lived experiences to better understand the roots of conflicts and come with better tools to address them. So, please feel free to send me an email at miriame@speakingjustice.org to share your experience of difficult conversations. 

Today, I wanted to talk about an important aspect of our Speaking Justice Method that I find often missing in the public discussion: Granting Dignity

1. Definition and role of dignity in conflict resolution

Donna Hicks is the author of “Dignity: Its essential role in Resolving Conflicts” and an international expert in conflict resolution.

Her work led her to look for the roots of conflicts and she discovered that dignity is “an unspoken human yearning that is at the heart of all conflicts, yet no one is paying attention to it”. She found that dignity is especially essential to shift people’s mindsets from conflict oriented to collaborative problem solving. 

She defines dignity as “our inherent value and self-worth”, “the desire to be treated well. From her point of view, dignity is different from respect as respect is a quality that must be earned. 

Dignity is not just about granting it to other people: it is also a fundamental need for us. We cannot engage in a transformative conversation, or a positive relationship if our own dignity is not acknowledged. Requesting it can be necessary. 

2. How to grant dignity: the model 

You can find Hicks’ model of  “Ten Essential Elements of Dignity and Ten Temptations to Violate Dignity” here.

For those who have taken our workshops or online course, you will see some common themes with the Speaking Justice method.

The model’s main value is that it exemplifies what granting dignity means. 

To learn more about her work and her discovery of dignity watch her TEDx Talk

3. The irony of dignity in difficult conversations and conflicts

When I started working on dialogue and first heard about Hicks and her work on dignity, I had mixed feelings about it. 

On the issue of racism for example, I couldn’t imagine being in a conversation with a person that expressed racist ideas, those same ideas that have denied the dignity of millions of BIPOC for centuries, and forcing myself to grant that dignity to them. 

But I changed my perspective due to two factors:

  1. My experience leading dialogues has shown me that indeed people do need to feel treated as worthy human beings before they can hear and accept different perspectives. 
  2. My discovery and work with the Five Habits of Speaking Justice, particularly Habit 3: Self-reflecting on the power of our voice. Habit 3 is about being aware of how our identities have an impact on our voice in different social settings. This habit led me to think a lot about who is responsible for speaking justice and granting dignity in different social settings and to whom we should speak justice. My conclusion is that it is not the responsibility of BIPOC to grant dignity to people expressing racist ideas.

How do you feel about it? Let me know.