You're here: Home > For You > Key 4

Key 4 - Living in Society, the Palabre

A problem and a response

Do you have difficulty discussing things with your life partner? Is it difficult to communicate with the people that are close to you? In the context of your work or in life in general are your relationships with people going badly? Are you searching for a way to get out of this crisis of communication which has become humanly unliveable? Thanks to the “Palabre” that we are developing at SAS, together we can help you find a peaceful way of relating to and living harmoniously and in a healthy way with the people in your life.

Description of the “Palabre”

The Palabre is mediation, in a spoken form, for a whole community, be it big or small.  It is an effective tool for meeting the needs for being and living in harmony with others. It is also effective at (re)building dislocated identities. It is strength/force which disarms and dismantles the mechanism of overt and or subtle violence which infest way of relating  between men and women, in communities and in cultures. So, in sum the therapeutic force of the Palabre can work at the level of individuals, couples, families and communities and so on.

The Palabre allows people to understand themselves and to understand others. It is a system of communication favourable for the harmonious resolution of conflicts; a system which aims at attaining peace and reconciliation.

The Palabre is a whole system in itself, and Mediation is one of its foundation stones. Once the contract – or accord - is established, the process must be carried through to the end. The process should only be interrupted if the participants decide to abandon the Palabre.

What is that distinguishes the Palabre specifically? Ancestral tradition insists that we speak truth. In other words – words given, exchanged or declared in the presence of the community are sacred. The word of participants must be respected and kept, for the sake of coherence.

Testimonials about the Palabre

The Palabre is a constructive way of working with words. The three following testimonials allow us to grasp its theoretical meaning, and the practical experience and understanding that these participants have had of the Palabre.

A Real Democracy

Before I came to SAS, I had the usual clichéd view of the Palabre: Endless discussions by men mainly, who spend a great deal of time coming to a decision or arriving at a judgement in a village. They listen to the wise men and then move on together.

Now that I have listened to Barthélemy Badze show and teach us the Palabre, I can now see other aspects of this African practice. The Palabre allows any person to express him or herself in an atmosphere of freedom and respect. This reflects a real democracy where each individual has the same importance. The moderator’s role is very important as he or she is the one who permits each person to speak in turn and so, must show his or her respect for and pay attention to each person. The moderator’s ability to ‘read back’ or reformulate back to each person what they have said, gives them the feeling and reassurance that they have been heard and listened to, which is an extremely rare thing in current Western society. The moderator is impartial and must not provoke participants or sow discord. The aim and the result of the Palabre is to advance a consensus and to make wise decisions, because, as the Bible says the greater the number of counsellors, the wiser the decision.


Channelling violence

The Palabre is not only a course in non violent communication (NVC), it is also training in a fundamental which is essential for forming relationships with other people. In this way I get to know myself and find my own timing. It is about welcoming the other person all of their aspects and it is also about allowing oneself to be touched, experiencing what the other person has to say, and all the while respecting oneself also.

In the Palabre I learn to, indeed I must see the other person in front of me as a human being who is different from me. So for me, it is all about coming into contact with people without wanting to smash their faces in anymore. I learn to enter into their world without violating it! This is the same as opening to the outside world, to other people. I become aware of another person’s problems without mixing them up with my own. For me, this requires a second stage of learning – namely abstraction and differentiation/abstracting and differentiating myself from others.

So in a word, our two worlds sometimes crash into one another! As my teacher Barthélemy Badze says so well: “We denounce lies, we don’t negotiate with them” In practice I learn to adapt myself to different kinds of combat. The Palabre is being able to tell one’s own story without shutting out the other, while remaining in connection with the other. In the Palabre we connect with each other...I connect myself to...we connect...without the madness of undiscriminating fusion which neither takes into account nor respects our respective identities. The Palabre channels my violence because in me verbal ability replaces physical power or action. This provides me with a framework and also liberates me at the same time. Through the aim of the Palabre I seek – as much as possible - agreement, a resolution of whatever it is that puts us in conflict; resolution of conflicts whether they are still latent or already full blown. The Palabre allows us to lay out clearly what isn’t working in our relationship so that it can be fixed.


An attentive attitude

I see the Palabre as a space of exchange. It is about making oneself available so that each person can express him or herself in a way that allows the time each individual needs to express him or herself. This also includes listening carefully to the other person. The Palabre is the place where one adopts a welcoming and listening attitude to what the other person is, and what he or she wishes to tell us. This is a framework in which ideas and problems start to move around...where the focus is on possibilities and solutions that can emerge from the framework of the Palabre. A framework provided by a mediator. The attitude of the “I” who is, and the “I” who listens.


LE SAS, GARE 13 - CP 370 CH-2074 MARIN (Neuchâtel) | TEL: ++41 (0)32 753 03 32 | E-MAIL: