Finding creative alternatives and new ways of communication to solve conflicts.

Some business problems can be solved thorough dispassionate analytical means, and some can’t. These most often are interpersonal relationships problems. Failure to fully identify the interpersonal relationships issues and misunderstandings, results in the other mechanical problems never being solved satisfactorily, or other problems emerge over time.

A mediated conflict resolution intervention can help the parties in conflict have a conversation with each other to try to identify fully what are the strengths in the interpersonal relationships that are valued and what obstacles need to be clarified and worked out to allow the parties to move forward.

Appreciative Inquiry and Problem Solving

The method AFS Consulting employs in mediated conflict resolution conversations is a modified Appreciative Inquiry. A.I. takes as its base premise that parties to a problem have strengths that can be levered to a successful solution. My own experience in the ‘real world’ is that if you don’t address the underlying problems, positive intentions are not enough to overcome the negative or restraining forces for movement. This is inescapable – you can not really work effectively on the opportunities revealed by the A.I. process unless the negative issues have been disposed of.

So, in modified A.I. technique we combine appreciative inquiry with some form of rational problem solving and decision making. The resulting solutions hopefully address both issues at the same time: solutions to the problems, and levering the strengths of the participants.

Five Steps

Open Mind

Both participants need to be willing to listen generously to what the other has to say – receiving the positive comments gracefully and accepting the criticisms constructively.

Appreciative Inquiry

Both parties produce a list of the things each values in the other, the things that each positively admires in the other, especially as it is relevant to the successful prosecution of their professional responsibilities.

Problem Identification

Both parties similarly produce a list of the behaviors or values which each does not admire in the other and believe impedes ability to move the business relationship forward. Examples are given of actual transactions or events over the recent past symptomatic of the values or behaviour that raises concerns for the other.

Possible Solutions

Each party proposes actions they think the other could take to overcome the problem(s) that have been identified. The facilitator may need press the parties to think and generate other possible solutions. Ideas for solving problems are often the result of levering the strengths perceived in the other.

Final Step

At the end of the mediation session (or sessions) the parties (and likely their bosses) will be faced with a number of possible outcomes. The most positive of these will be resolution of the issues before them and the drafting of an action plan, and/or set of protocols, governing the next steps of the relationship.

The negative outcome would be an agreement between the parties that the differences are irreconcilable and the action plan will be to take steps to disengage and make some separation arrangements either within the employer or exiting the employer. This may require subsequent ‘mediation’ or guided discussion

Other ‘in-between’ outcomes are possible. The parties may feel they have made progress but need more time to work on a solutions and actions; they may feel the need for further assistance in this dialogue or they may judge that they can proceed on their own.

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