In this lesson, we’ll discuss why conflict resolution doesn’t always happen quickly, and how to handle situations in which reaching a resolution is taking longer than expected.
The specific areas of focus include:
As you’ve learned, 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.
However, this 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.
This is because even though we have a well-outlined process with a number of steps that we can move through, the process itself is rarely linear.
As a conflict-resolver, you may start to move through the process, and then find that one party needs to go back and revisit a stage. Perhaps he or she needs to go back to the stage of sharing or open discussion because he or she has some more things to say. This person might feel like he or she hasn't been completely heard, so you move back to that stage because you can't move into brainstorming options or any other part of the process if an earlier stage is somehow incomplete.
When this happens, your communication skills are very useful; as the intervenor, you can ask clarifying questions:
The specific clarifying questions that you ask will depend on what it is you’re hearing, and what the parties seem to be stuck on.
By asking these questions, you may find that you need to go back and identify interests because the parties haven’t yet been able to express all of their needs.
Because conflict resolution involves the constant repetition of moving back and forth between stages, parties can become frustrated with the process.
The parties might not feel like they’re getting anywhere because they see this moving back and forth as a lack of progress.
Therefore, as the intervenor, you want to prepare them for the possibility that this could happen by explaining up front that the process itself is iterative.
While there is a clear process that the parties are going to move through sequentially:
it’s important for the parties to also hear that they may have to go back to an earlier stage if necessary.
Let’s say you’re at the brainstorming stage, and the parties seem unable to come up with options, or there seems to be something missing. You may need to go back to the previous step in which the parties share their perspectives with one another.
If the parties understand from the start that this repetition may be necessary, they are less likely to become frustrated if it occurs.
When one of the parties needs to share something, another party might feels that he or she doesn’t quite understand what is being said.
In this case, you would want to ask clarifying questions, and encourage the parties to use I-statements to express their needs and interests.
Using I-statements and asking clarifying questions at any stage in this process, particularly when you feel as though the parties are not moving forward because there's been something unexpressed that requires repetition, can help clarify what needs to happen to progress.
You can encourage the parties to:
to express what they need at any particular point in this process.
After you prepare the parties for this repetition, especially 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 evaluating options or ready to move toward a solution.
But if they stick with it, the parties will have an "a-ha" moment at some point in this process. We’ve all had moments like this, and they occur when we’re trying to solve a problem that we can’t quite figure out. Then all of a sudden, it's as if a light bulb goes off, and everything comes together.
This moment occurs in the conflict resolution process when the parties suddenly have an insight about a particular issue or concept that they're dealing with.
From that moment on, things begin to move faster, and you begin to return to a more linear process because the parties are now unstuck.
In many cases, conflict resolution requires repetition because the process is iterative. If you want a sustainable, workable, long-term solution, it's worth the time you spend on the process.
As the intervenor, preparing the parties up front for the iterative nature of the process goes a long way toward dealing with whatever frustration the parties might experience later.
In this lesson, you learned that although the conflict resolution process is made up of sequential steps, the process itself is iterative. This means that parties may need to move between stages in the process if they become stuck at a certain point.
As an intervenor, it’s important to address the iterative nature of the process up front to prevent the parties from becoming frustrated with the need for repetition later on. You also have the ability to encourage the parties to use techniques, such as assertive communication and I-statements, at any point in the process to help move things forward.
Source: Adapted from Sophia tutorial by Marlene Johnson.
Regarding a process, a condition requiring repetition and movement back and forth between stages.
A term used to describe sudden realization of a concept, condition, or factor of a situation.