From Division to Bridge Building

Imagine yourself building bridges to align opposing parties to use their energy towards a better future. You might start with your own friendships or life or business partner, or with a colleague. Or you might help two fighting friends to hear each other, see the future they collectively want, and renew their relationship.

Let me tell a story. I will try to convey it as I remember it. I recently met Hesham ElGamal, a wonderful Egyptian who shared his story on a Zoom meeting with us. In 2010/2011 Hesham was a student of Relationship Coaching. As part of the learning process he had to do a practical project (“World Work”). His country was in the grip of a revolution against President Hosni Mubarak’s reign. Hesham decided to step up and bring representatives of the different parties together. They were from different camps: revolutionaries, moderate Christians, liberals, Muslim Brotherhood, socialist, communist, Salafi Muslim, and from the silent majority. The event was videotaped ( and placed on YouTube. It spread like a wild fire.

The structured process went through several phases which included the following:

  • Hear the voices of the system: At first he got them to share their views of what is happening. The views were, of course, very polarised. Stress and anger could be felt and seen all over the place.
  • Hear the high dream: Then, he asked them to share their dreams of a better Egypt. The energy in the room changed and an important realisation was made: actually, we all want very much the same thing – a fair, prosperous, happy, peaceful Egypt.
  • Visit each other’s worlds: Physical spaces were created to represent every party or point of view – the spaces can be called “lands”. Together they physically visited every “land”, standing there together – that of radicals, liberals, moderates, etc. They saw life through the eyes of that land, felt the heart of those people. And in the process their empathy and understanding grew.
  • The ‘third entity’: Eventually there was one very important position – not that of “you and I”, not the parties represented, but that of Egypt (called the “third entity”). Each had a chance to put her- / himself in the position of Egypt and verbalise what Egypt really wants. So many beautiful things came out, a beautiful, compelling future was seen and felt.
  • Leave as friends: At the end, they left, shaking hands even hugging. Apparently some of them are still friends until today.

What a brave man! Egypt unfortunately still went through very tough times of military rule after that and the situation is still not ideal. But the process proved that when people talk, put themselves in each other’s worlds, hear what the “third entity” (the collective reality) really wants, bridges can be build and enemies can become friends. We can change, we can learn to appreciate each other, and feel unity with people who were formerly our enemies.

The fact is: we do not see life as it is; we see it as we are. Unless we change, or at least change our stuckness to our position and enlarge our perspective we will be caught up in primitive win-lose strategies and Fight, Flight, Freeze responses – which might work in the jungle, but leads to lots of destruction and pain in our normal, complex world.

Friends, may we find ways to be bridge builders. Together we can make the world a better place. It starts small, by allowing ourselves to be changed, then changing our relationships, and later on helping others to do the same.