Do you need help resolving a conflict?

Developing a shared purpose is the final step in resolving any conflict.

In previous articles titled “TEA can help a crucial conversation” and “Active listening to avoid fight or flight”, steps were emphasized to begin a difficult conversation. The book Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler was described as a resource to learn more about having difficult conversations. This article discusses the last step in that 3-part process of moving from “Preserving the relationship”, “Creating safety” and finally “Developing a shared purpose.”

If you have been working through the steps of a “Crucial Conversation” the final step logically is moving toward resolution. Moving toward resolution is described in the Michigan State University Extension Conflict Smoothies Online Series as “In our extremely polarized world, how can we share our needs and concerns in a way that leads toward productive, positive outcomes?”

We move toward those productive, positive outcomes by understanding positions and interests, and inventing a mutual purpose with both/and thinking. Your position on an issue is what you want to happen, versus your interest in that issue, which is the reason you take that position. An important step in resolving any conflict is to help people understand each other’s interests behind the positions. The following example illustrates a conflict and demonstrates position, interest and mutual purpose:

Zoning Example:

a)    “I oppose planning and zoning because I am worried that it means Big Brother will be telling me what I can or can’t do with my property. I’m worried that zoning will devalue the land I want to sell.” (Position: opposes zoning. Interests: values individual freedom, maintain property values).

b)    “As a newcomer to this county I demand zoning now! I don’t want mobile homes moving into my nice neighborhood. I want to maintain property values and high standard of living.” (Position: favors zoning. Interests: maintain neighborhood, maintain quality of life, and maintain property values).

What’s the both/and question? In the above example, how can we maintain our property values and allow people to have the freedom to do what they want?

The next time you find yourself in a “crucial” conversation, consider reading Crucial Conversations, sign up for Conflict Smoothies Online Series, practice preserving the relationship using TEA and finally, stay in dialog by creating safety through active listening, and working to develop a shared purpose. 

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