How to create safe policy dialogue spaces to overcome political divides and polarisation

Creating a safe space for generative dialogue between hostile parties is a highly delicate matter. It is however essential to enable an ecosystem of stakeholders to grapple with complex cross-cutting issues that require various types of expertise. Safe space follow specific principles and require specific methods and techniques that require careful design.

European political integration, to be successful and to maintain its legitimacy through crises, has to rely on institutions but also on informal processes. This is what our dialogue experts Chiara Rosselli and Verena Ringler suggested during our webinar on safe spaces taking the example of the Open European Dialogue. The methodology and framework’s design is crucial to a safe space’s success.

If one had to keep in mind two things, it would be this:

  • Treat everyone in the group as you would like to be treated. Naive? Simple? But necessary when we are talking about deep political divisions between politicians with different cultural backgrounds from across the European Union.
  • Pay attention to communication skills. Communication is an art, and if a politician manages to be in an orator or leader’s position, it is less simple to give them the role of the receiver. Imago Relationship therapy, developed by Dr. Harville Hendrix and Dr. Helen LaKelly Hunt in 1980, can here be of support.

10 tips from Imago therapy method applied to politicians:

  1. One Party Speaks at a Time: in conversations, practice the Imago Technique by ensuring that only one person speaks at a time. This promotes focused communication and active listening.
  2. Establish a Speaker and Receiver: designate one person as the speaker or center of information, while the other person takes on the role of the receiver. This helps create a clear structure for communication.
  3. Mirroring Responses: as the receiver, mirror the sender’s statements to confirm understanding. Repeat back what you heard, such as “I think you said this or that,” to ensure accurate comprehension.
  4. Ask for More Information: encourage open dialogue by asking the sender to elaborate further on their thoughts. Use phrases like “Tell me more” to delve deeper into the topic.
  5. Validation: after hearing the sender’s statement, acknowledge their perspective by expressing understanding. This validation can be as simple as saying, “This makes sense to me because…”
  6. Empathy: allow space for emotions and feelings in the conversation. During the empathy step, show compassion and understanding towards the sender’s emotions. For example, “I can imagine you might be feeling frustrated that…”
  7. Practice Active Listening: stay fully engaged in the conversation by actively listening to the speaker’s words and non-verbal cues. Avoid interrupting and be patient while the other person is speaking.
  8. Use Non-Judgmental Language: maintain a non-judgmental and supportive tone throughout the conversation. Avoid blaming or criticizing, and instead, focus on understanding and finding common ground.
  9. Promote Emotional Safety: create a safe environment where individuals feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and emotions without fear of judgment or retribution.
  10. Be Open-Minded: approach conversations with an open mind and a willingness to consider different perspectives. This openness can lead to finding creative solutions and building stronger connections.


Join this event if you want to

  • overcome political deadlocks
  • foster conditions for productive discussions



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