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Resolution Requires Repetition

Resolution Requires Repetition

Author: marlene johnson

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand that the conflict resolution process is rarely linear, but usually moves back and forth between stages and techniques.

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Video Transcription

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The conflict resolution process is designed to help parties in conflict move through their conflict and reach a resolution that's mutually satisfactory to both parties. But it doesn't always happen quickly. In fact, sometimes it can take quite some time. And parties may find that they're moving back and forth in the process, revisiting stages they've already been through.

I'm Marlene, and I'd like to talk with you about this. Now, the process itself, even though we do have a well-outlined process with the number of steps that we move through, the process itself is rarely linear. It usually moves back and forth. We may start to move through the process, and then somebody needs to go back and revisit a stage. Perhaps they need to go back to the stage of sharing or open discussion, where they have some more things that they need to say. They feel like they haven't completely been heard.

So you move back to that stage, because we can't move into brainstorming options or any other part of the process if we're incomplete somehow. So this is where the communications skills come in and are very useful. You, as the intervenor, can ask clarifying questions.

I'm sensing that there seems to be an impasse here. What needs to happen to move ahead? Is there more you'd like to say about X, Party A? Or Party B, can you tell me more about what's happening right now when you start discussing that one issue? So you ask some clarifying questions, of course, depending on what it is you are hearing and what seems to be stuck.

And then you may find you need to go back and identify interests. The parties may not have really been able to express all their interests. So you need to go back and revisit that particular piece. So it's a constant repetition moving back and forth between stages.

Now, this can be frustrating. And parties can become frustrated with the process. They might say, are we getting anywhere? It doesn't feel like we're getting anywhere. So they see this moving back and forth as a lack of progress.

So as the intervenor, you want to prepare them for the possibility that this could happen, that the process itself is iterative. Now let me write that word down-- "iterative." OK? This means that the process, clearly-outlined process that we told the party we're going to move through this sequentially, and now we start by outlining the process, getting agreement. You have a chance to speak and be heard. Then we move into brainstorming. I mean, that is our process.

But you tell them at the beginning that this is iterative, that if, at any point, for example, we get to-- let's say this is the brainstorming section. And we seem to not to be coming up with options, or there seems to be something missing here. We may need to go back here to this step we've been through where we need to say some more things.

One of the parties needs to share something. Another party feels that they don't quite understand. So we want to ask clarifying questions. And we want to encourage the parties to use "I" statements to express their needs, to express their interests.

So using these "I" statements, asking clarifying questions at any stage in this process, particularly when you feel as though something is not moving forward because there's been something unexpressed that requires repetition here, you as the intervenor can ask the questions. You can encourage the parties to speak up, to be assertive, to use "I" statements about what they need at any particular point in this process.

Now, if you prepare the parties and particularly, as I said in a very intense or complex conflict, there may need to be several meetings. You may need to move back and forth in this process several times before you can get to the point where you're actually, perhaps, down here evaluating options and ready to move to a solution. But at some point in this process, if you stick with it, the parties will have an "aha" moment.

Now, you've all had an "aha" moment. You probably know what I mean by that, where you're stuck on something. You're trying to solve a problem, and it just feels like you can't quite get it. And all of a sudden, it's like that light bulb goes off. Aha, I get it. Everything comes together.

Well, that's what happens in the conflict resolution process as well. The parties suddenly realize, ah, yes, that's it. And they have an insight here about a particular issue or concept or situation, aspect of what they're dealing with. From that moment on, from the moment you have that "aha" moment, things begin to move faster, and you begin to return to a more linear process because you're unstuck.

So once again, resolution here, in many cases, requires this kind of repetition. The process is iterative. Particularly if you want a sustainable, long-term solution, something that's very workable, it's worth the time to spend on the process. And as the intervenor, preparing the parties up front for the iterative nature of the process goes a long way to help deal with the frustration. So thank you for joining me, and I look forward to next time.

Terms to Know
A-Ha Moment

A term used to describe sudden realization of a concept, condition, or factor of a situation.


Regarding a process, a condition requiring repetition and movement back and forth between stages.