Authentic Dialogue: Where Intimacy, Vulnerability, and Conflict Transformation Intersect

Degree Name

MA in Conflict Transformation

First Advisor

Paula Green


For most people, the act of becoming vulnerable with another human being involves risk. It is also the road in towards building intimacy and connection. The gap between one’s desired experience and the current existing relationship structure involves uncertainty because change necessitates a letting go. Challenging perceptions, beliefs, and values can create deeper, more expansive connections; however it also can create further separation between people if attachment and judgment prevent the transformative process from moving through its natural stages. Bringing the practice of transparency and truth-telling to an intentional dialogue container can serve to support family, community, and/or national post-conflict healing. Coupled with mediation-based active listening techniques, facilitators can begin to assist participants in developing understanding across personal, political, cultural, and religious or ethical differences.

This paper explores the vulnerability process and asks what it's relevance and importance is in dialogue. The research methodology used in this study included quantitative assessment and informal, qualitative interviewing. Participants were experienced with the dialogue process, some as facilitators. The dialogue topics they had broached were varied. The research focused on the process of the dialogue rather than the subjects being discussed. Findings showed that most participants agreed that vulnerability had a significant affect on building and sustaining intimacy. They also agreed that while vulnerability is difficult at times, it often leaves them feeling closer to the other people they are in dialogue with.

The results of these findings point to the continued need for facilitators and participants in dialogue work to alchemize their fear around becoming vulnerable in favor of creating and supporting authentic relational conversations that foster personal and community transformation. Furthermore, I believe these interpersonal techniques mirror national and international restorative justice healing movements such as the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission and may be broadened in scope so as to implement forming cultures of truth and transparency.


Family, Life Course, and Society | Peace and Conflict Studies | Social Psychology and Interaction