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Conflict as Partnership:  Making Other's Goals as Important as Your Own

Conflict as Partnership: Making Other's Goals as Important as Your Own

Author: marlene johnson

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand the importance of parties perceiving each others' goals and needs as equally important in problem solving.

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Conflict as Partnership: Making Others' Goals as Important as Your Own

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Conflict is partnership. That probably sounds like a very odd concept to a lot of people. How could people in conflict come together as partners? And yet, that's exactly what we ask them to do in the conflict resolution process. In fact, it's the key to the success of the process. I'm Marlene, and I'd like to talk with you more about that today. I'd like to talk with you about the approach to conflict resolution, which is really called Win-win thinking. I've written that here. Win-win thinking.

Now, this is an approach that asks each party in the conflict to try to meet each other's interests as fully as possible. So, the focus here is on the interests of each party. We've moved away from positions. Positions, as you recall, would be how parties typically come in. They have a position, which is something they think they absolutely have to have. It's a way of getting a need or interest met.

So, we want to get underneath those positions to the real interest for each party, and then we ask each party to see the interests of both sides is equally important. That's the partnership part. So, I'm in conflict with someone, my needs, my interests are something that I of course want to be met, but I need to see the interests of the other side, as equally important. So, both goals are equally important to a successful outcome.

So, it's an approach that really asks the parties to see this conflict as a problem to be solved jointly. Instead of a battle to be won. So, that one side wins, and the other side loses. So, that's really the overall approach to conflict resolution. It's an integrative approach. We want to integrate the needs, the interests of both parties, in a way that they can be mutually satisfied.

So, if two parties are in conflict, that they do come in with their particular position, and that's usually based on one side is going to win, and the other side is going to lose. For example, we may have two neighbors. We'll call one set of neighbors John and Alice. They've been living in this neighborhood for quite some time, and you know, the neighborhood's changed. A lot of people they know have moved out but they love their backyard. It's a sunny backyard. They love the garden. They have a nice big garden. That's John and Alice.

Next door to John and Alice, Tony and Lisa have moved in. They're a younger couple. They've got a couple of kids and a dog, and they have decided to do some landscaping in the backyard, and part of the plan is to is to put in some trees. In fact, John and Alice overheard them talking about planting trees and became alarmed because the trees they were talking about, which would cast all kinds of shade over their beautiful sunny garden. So, here they are, in the conflict resolution process, and they're here because of the tree.

Tony and Lisa are saying, we have a right to plant trees. We want trees in our backyard. And John and Lisa are saying, we really are upset that you are planting a tree in your yard because it's impinging on us. We don't want you to plant those trees. We know you have a right to, but we would like you not to plant the tree. So, to plant the tree or not to plant the tree. Those are the positions they came in with, upset about this landscaping.

So, after much discussion and talking about their feelings of the way they perceive this issue, we uncover the needs. So, we discover of course, John and Alice don't want the tree to go up because they want to keep the sun. So, their interest is to preserve a sunny backyard. They want to have some sun in that yard for their garden, their vegetable garden.

Tony and Lisa want to put a tree up because they don't want all that sun. They would like some shade so they can put up a little play area for their children, and the children the dog can be outside, and they'll have a shaded area in which to play. So, when it comes down to shade and sun, we can reframe this conflict. We can look at these interests.

Now, this is where the intervener could step in and say, perhaps to you know Tony and Lisa, you know, John and Alice have said that sun, they need to have sun in their backyard in order to have a satisfactory outcome here, . Now, is there any reason that you don't want them to have that outcome. Is there any reason that you would not want them to have some sun in their backyard? If not, can we say that providing an area of sun in the backyard there must be met to have a successful outcome?

So, now you're getting the other side, the neighbors here, Tony and Lisa, to focus on this interest, this need to have some sun in the backyard. And by the same token, you could say to John and Alice, you know, Tony and Lisa would like some shade for their children to play under, you know, for the dog to go. Is there any reason why that would be objectionable to you, that they should not have some shade in their yard. If not, can we say that providing shade in their yard must be met to have a successful outcome?

So, you focus, refocus the parties on that interest. It's no longer about just the tree, to plant or not to plant, but it becomes about how do we find a creative way here, in this landscaping, to allow one party to have some shade, and still allow the other neighbor here, to have some sun, so they can continue to have a vegetable garden. And that can lead to some creative solutions, and now, the neighbors have become partners you see, working together here on this joint problem, to see if they can find a solution a win-win solution, that will be mutually satisfying to both of them.

So once again conflict resolution is really based on this win-win thinking, this approach to conflict resolution, which is very different than an approach that looks at conflict more as a bottle, where one side is the winner, and then, of course, the other side is the loser. So, thank you for joining me, and I look forward to next time.

Terms to Know
Win-Win Thinking

An approach to conflict resolution that sees the objective of a successful solution as meeting each party's interests as fully as possible, to the point of satisfaction with the solution.