4 Tutorials that teach Core Concerns: Autonomy
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Core Concerns: Autonomy

Core Concerns: Autonomy

Author: Marlene Johnson

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand the importance of the role of perceived lack of autonomy in creating conflict and the presence of autonomy in a conflict resolution process

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Core Concerns: Autonomy

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I think we'd all agree that freedom, and the right to make our own choices, is a core value that we all share. In fact life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is written right into the Declaration of Independence. And when we feel that we are not free to make their own choices, that our freedom is being impinge upon, it can lead to conflict. I'm Marlene, and in this tutorial I want to talk about freedom of the right to make our own choices. And how that can not only create conflict, but the importance of that in resolving conflict.

Now this right to make our own choices is called autonomy. Autonomy is a perception that one is empowered to make one's own choices and act freely based on those choices. And autonomy is considered a core concern in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

What is a core concern? Well per Harvard Negotiation Project, it's one of five emotional or relational needs all humans feel within relationships or in negotiation. So autonomy is a core need and these core needs fall into esteem and love and belonging in Maslow's Hierarchy. So where does autonomy belong? Well it belongs here in the esteem level. That's where we put autonomy. We need to feel that we have self esteem, that we're being recognized, respected, that we have freedom to make our own choices, that we have influence.

So how does this lead to conflict in various contexts? Well it depends, if we are at work we want to feel that we are recognized, that were respected, that we can be trusted with the project. When someone starts to micromanage us it can make us feel as though we are being impinged upon. We're not being trusted. Give me the project. Tell me what the deadlines are. Tell me the expectations. Then let me go and do it. Don't feel like you have to tell me every little thing.

Or perhaps you're part of the team. And you arrive at a team meeting one day only to have an announcement made that there are some huge changes that are going to affect your role, your position in the company, the whole team. That may feel like you're having a decision imposed upon you and there's been no prior discussion. You were not ask for feedback. You had no influence. Oftentimes in that kind of situation where people feel they've been told they're going to do something, and have had no input, it can lead to backlash conflict.

At home this sense of autonomy is important. We all know as adults we want to feel autonomy with one another. And our children feel that way. As children get older, if we have teenagers, we know that they want to feel as though they can be trusted with making the right choices. Now of course in this context as a parent we have the right to set the guidelines. You're going to take the car. Fine, you have to be home by 11 o'clock. And there are certain guidelines that you have to follow within using the car and being out on a Saturday night, because you are the parent and this is your teenager.

But within those guidelines every teenager wants to feel that they could make some of their own choices. That you trust them to do that. That they have autonomy. And if you don't allow that you may have some backlash from your teenager. Who feels perhaps that you're not trusting him or her.

This is true even at the civic level. We live in communities where we don't want to have laws, regulations, and rules imposed on us without having the chance to give our input. We want to talk to the city council, we want to go to a meeting, we want to vote in local politics. Because we want to be heard, we want to feel that we have influence, and we don't want others imposing things on us without asking for our involvement.

In any of these situations if we feel that we have not had influence, or we have not been given a choice, it can lead to backlash. It can lead to conflict.

Now within a conflict resolution process, it's important to honor the sense of autonomy. We have parties in conflict coming together and wanting to resolve the conflict in good faith. Each party needs to be made to feel empowered to make their own choices and to be able to share what's important to them. What their underlying needs are, what it is that they truly need in order to resolve this conflict. And as a mediator being able to respect the autonomy of each party, allow them to create their own agreement, work out their own issues, is a powerful conflict resolving technique. In its core to the process working effectively.

I've been glad to be part of this tutorial with you. And I look forward to seeing you next time.

  • Core Concern

    Per Harvard Negotiation Project, one of 5 emotional or relational needs all humans feel within relationships or in negotiation.

  • Autonomy

    A perception that one is empowered to make one's own choices and act freely based on those choices.