"100 women and 1000 more": Sara Greco
Institutional Communication Service
2 December 2019
Sara Greco is professor and senior assistant professor at USI Faculty of Communication Sciences. She is also one of the women chosen for the campaign “100 women and a thousand more”. Professor Greco is involved in argumentation, which she describes as an essential tool for preventing conflicts and resolving friction and misunderstandings.
The dynamics of argumentation in conflict management in different contexts, including the interaction between adults and children, are at the heart of her studies. In fact, "family - explains Greco - is a place where some aspects that can lead to conflict or even just misunderstanding in other contexts are amplified, as if they were under a magnifying glass". The way we listen is, for example, one the factors that add up to imbalances that are linked to the difference in age and role: "what children say that seems 'strange', or 'wrong', may not necessarily be a mistake. There is often something hidden and often implicit that we, as adults, do not understand". And that is when argumentation comes into play: "to know how to ask why, to know how to move away from our own point of view and to accept the point of view of others, to perceive disagreement or difference as a starting point for a healthy dialogue".
The key word is "to decentre", a technique Greco learned also by attending international meetings aimed at deepening her field of study. Researcher and mother, after the birth of her second child she left for the United Kingdom and afterwards she had the chance to collect international data and understand very different realities. Within her research group from USI Institute for Argumentation, Linguistics and Semiotics (IALS), dialogue with PhD students is fundamental, "there is no such thing as research without collaboration" - says Greco – both from a personal and professional point of view we must learn to "see in dialogue and confrontation a challenge to be taken up in order to understand and grow by focusing on listening, and on empathy". And the young PhD students do it with passion: "What they all have in common is the interest in the type of communication 'that does good', that builds relationships, transforms the negative emotions of conflict into hope and re-opens spaces for dialogue where this did not seem possible.
The opportunities for dialogue in today's digital age seem to be multiplying thanks to platforms and messaging systems that open up more possibilities for comparison, but there has been an increase in conflict because of the speed in which messages are sent and received. "What we do on online platforms also depends on the models of argumentative dialogue that we have or haven not learned in our life offline," continues Greco. "Too often we have an image of hostile and conflicting dialogue, where words only serve to 'win' an argument and not to unite to solve problems".
Our interconnected society is also involved in public decision-making on a number of issues on which we are called upon to vote, to give opinions. Sara Greco is part of the European Network for Argumentation and Public Policy Analysis (APPLY), part of COST, the European Cooperation in Science and Technology, an organisation that promotes the creation of research networks aimed at improving the way European citizens understand, evaluate and contribute to public decision-making on issues of common interest such as climate change or energy policy. The aim of APPLY, as Greco explains, is to find out where the speeches of citizens, policymakers and experts on energy policy issues are not aligned starting from the differences, the misunderstandings in the issues discussed to solve the problems of public communication today. Within APPLY Greco, she is responsible for an empirical working group: "The working group collects, analyses and compares data (speeches, documents, press articles, social media messages, but also interviews with citizens, etc.) to find out exactly where the communication misunderstandings are today". A path between languages and institutions in which argumentative dialogue becomes the common tool for understanding each other and making shared decisions.
Read the portrait of Sara Greco on the initiative website: