4 Tutorials that teach Creating Buy-In to a Conflict Resolution Process
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Creating Buy-In to a Conflict Resolution Process

Creating Buy-In to a Conflict Resolution Process

Author: Marlene Johnson

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand how to encourage parties to attempt conflict resolution.

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Creating Buy-in to a Conflict Resolution Process

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In order for a conflict resolution process to be successful, both parties have to be invested in the process. They must willingly engage. And oftentimes there's reluctance to do that. Well, I'm Marlene, and today I'd like to talk with you about creating the buy-in to a conflict resolution process.

So what do we mean by buy-in? Well, buy -in is the willingness to participate. And it's most often based on a sense of ownership. Parties have to feel like they have an ownership in this process. It's their process. And if they feel that, they will buy-in, which means they'll engage in good faith. They'll put out a good faith attempt to resolve the conflict.

So ownership, or investment in the process, is really the degree of control the party feels they have over participating and the competence they have to participate, the capability they feel they have to really participate in the process. So when there's reluctance, it could be for a variety of reasons, a variety of reasons. I've listed a few of them here.

It could be that conflict resolution is an unfamiliar process. And if that's the case, of course, the conflict intervener will want to explain some of the features and assumptions of the conflict resolution process. It could be fear of loss. The party may feel that it's too much of a risk to get into this process, because they might lose what they really value.

And, actually, when talking to a party at this point, the intervener may find that the party's trying to convince them of the rightness of their position, their emotions, the way they see the outcome should be. And it's very important for the intervener at this point to acknowledge the strength of the feelings, acknowledge the need to be heard, but not to take sides, not in agreement, not to get into a discussion here, and to clarify that as an intervener it's not your role to do this. That you are not invested in the outcome, your role is to bring the parties together to come to some mutual understanding here and agreement.

So acknowledging the strength of the feelings is different than giving any indication that you would agree with the party. And it's important to keep that distinction. But it's a very valid reason why many parties are hesitant to participate, that fear of loss.

Another reason could be anxiety over meeting the other side. There could be true anxiety about actually sitting down across the table from the party that you're in conflict with, for a variety of reasons. So assuaging that fear, perhaps deciding on a process that best suits this particular conflict in these parties, something such as conciliation, if perhaps that would be better suited to the parties if fear of meeting is really at the root of not being able to buy-in to the process.

And then, of course, there might be the belief that resolution just isn't possible. It's impossible, so why should I get involved in this process? So with any of these reasons for resisting the process, any of them here, it's important that the intervener not compel the parties or make any sort of unreasonable promises about what either side can expect, but simply to address the concerns. And, of course, one way to address them is to explain the features and assumptions of the process, particularly if it is an unfamiliar process, explaining that it's based on a win-win situation, that the goal is not to change values here but to come to understanding.

And even a discussion of the differences between positions and interests, finding mutual interests. Each party comes in with positions, but you're looking for mutual interests. And getting that explained and answering questions around different aspects of the process. And, of course, the process could be different depending on which process you choose for this particular conflict resolution process.

It's also important to explain that whatever process you use it's designed so that the party gets a chance to speak and be heard as well as to listen to the other side. So explaining the process can be very helpful. And then, of course, based on hearing what the resistance is and what the needs are, you can talk about selecting the best process for this particular issue. So once again, it's important that the conflict intervener take some time to explain the process, to clarify what could be expected, not to make any unreasonable promises, or not to do anything to compel.

And the last point that the intervener may want to bring up is to explore what happens if the conflict continues, if there's still resistance. Let's look at staying the way we are, in conflict. How desirable is that? What does that look like if we stay in conflict and make no moves towards resolving it? That can be a helpful discussion to have with a resistant party.

So creating buy-in to the process is key. And ultimately it has to come from the parties, because any kind of forced resolution typically is not going to get the kind of investment that you need for the resolution to really be successful. So thank you for joining me today, and I look forward to next time.

  • Ownership/Investment in Process

    The degree to which individuals feel control over (or competent in) participating in a conflict resolution process.

  • Buy-In

    Willingness to participate in a conflict resolution process, based on perception of ownership.