In this lesson, we’ll discuss how an intervener can create buy-in to the conflict resolution process to ensure that both parties are invested and willingly engaged.
The particular areas of focus include:
Buy-in is the willingness to participate, and it's most often based on a sense of ownership. Parties need to feel like they have ownership of the conflict resolution process.
The process belongs to the parties, and if they feel they can buy-in, this means they will engage in a good faith attempt to resolve the conflict.
Ownership/investment in the process is the degree of control the parties feel they have over their participation. In other words, it is how confident the parties are in their ability to participate effectively.
Thus when there is reluctance on the part of one or both of the parties, it could be for a variety of reasons.
a. Unfamiliarity with the Process
One reason for a reluctance to participate could be that conflict resolution is an unfamiliar process.
If that’s the case, the intervener will want to explain some of the features and assumptions of the conflict resolution process.
b. Fear of Loss
Another reason could be fear of loss; the party may feel that it's too much of a risk to get into this process because he or she may lose something highly valued.
When talking to a party at this point, the intervener may find that the party is trying to convince the intervener of the rightness of the party’s position, emotions, or desired outcome.
It’s thus very important for the intervener to acknowledge the strength of those feelings, and the party’s need to have those feelings heard, but not to indicate agreement or take sides.
The intervener is not invested in the outcome; his or her role is to bring the parties together to reach a mutual understanding and agreement.
Fear of loss is a very valid reason why many parties are hesitant to participate in the conflict resolution process. Acknowledging the strength of a party’s feelings is different than giving any indication that you as an intervener agree with that party, and maintaining that distinction is important.
c. Anxiety About Meeting
Another reason for a reluctance to participate in conflict resolution could be anxiety over meeting the other side.
For a variety of reasons, a party could have true anxiety about actually sitting down across the table from the party that he or she is in conflict with.
The intervener can assuage that fear by deciding on a process that best suits this particular conflict between these particular parties.
In a situation like this, a method such as conciliation might be a better fit if the fear of meeting is really at the root of the unwillingness to buy-in to the process.
d. Belief That Resolution Is Impossible
Finally, the reluctance to participate may come from the belief that resolving this conflict just isn't possible.
In this case, the party may feel that there’s no reason to even get involved with the process if there’s no chance of reaching a solution.
With any of these reasons for resisting the process, it's important that the intervener not compel the parties to participate, or make any unreasonable promises about what either side can expect.
Instead, the intervener’s job is simply to address the concerns, which can be done by raising several specific points about the process.
a. Explaining Features and Assumptions
One way of addressing parties’ concerns is to explain the features and assumptions of the process.
If the process is unfamiliar to the parties, it’s particularly helpful to explain that conflict resolution is based on a win-win situation; the goal is not to change values, but to reach an understanding.
The actual process could be different depending on which method you choose for this particular conflict, so it’s important to explain that whatever process you use is designed for both parties to get a chance to speak and be heard, as well as to listen to each other.
b. Differentiating Between Positions and Interests
Another way of addressing concerns is through a discussion of the differences between positions and interests.
Each party comes in with positions, but the process involves looking for mutual interests. Explaining this, and answering questions around this aspect of the process can help the parties feel more comfortable.
c. Selecting the Best Process
Based on the specific reason for the resistance, the intervener can talk about selecting the best process for this particular issue.
Once again, it's important that the intervener take some time to explain the process, clarify what should be expected, and refrain from compelling the parties or making any unreasonable promises.
d. Exploring the Possibility of Continued Resistance
The last point that the intervener may want to address is what will happen if the conflict continues because a party remains resistant to the process.
A discussion about what remaining in conflict might look like can be helpful to have with a resistant party.
In this lesson, you learned that buy-in to the conflict resolution process is key to its success. This buy-in, or willingness to participate, comes from the parties’ feelings of ownership over their participation in the process. However, there are several reasons why you might see a reluctance to participate on the part of one or both of the parties: unfamiliarity with the process, fear of loss, anxiety about meeting, and the belief that a resolution is impossible.
You now understand that there are some helpful discussions that you as the intervener can have when addressing parties’ concerns about the process: explaining the features and assumptions of the process, differentiating between positions and interests, selecting the best process for resolving the conflict, and exploring the possibility of continued resistance to participation in the process. Ultimately, the decision to participate has to come from the parties; any kind of forced involvement is unlikely to provide the investment that you need for the resolution to be successful.Good luck!
Source: Adapted from Sophia tutorial by Marlene Johnson.
Willingness to participate in a conflict resolution process, based on perception of ownership.
The degree to which individuals feel control over (or competent in) participating in a conflict resolution process.