As I have mentioned before in this series (The Eight Simple Rules to Managing Conflict), the biggest key to effectively resolving conflict is preparation. When we have time to prepare we do much better in resolving conflict than when it is thrust upon us and all we can do is react.
When I mediate conflicts, I include a preparation and coaching phase with both parties individually before I ever bring them together. This added phase is critical to a successful mediation, resulting in both parties being prepared, goal-focused, and ready for resolution.
Below is the two-step process I use for successfully mediating and resolving conflict between two people.
Part I: The Preparation Phase
The first step in the preparation phase is to conduct a thorough self-assessment on the conflict itself. Below are the questions I use to help conflicting parties think through the conflict and prepare for mediation. These questions are also useful for the typical everyday conflicts and disagreements that we all face.
1. Is the conflict about one isolated event that shows little consistency with the rest of the relationship, or is it the latest in a series of conflicts revealing problems within the relationship as a whole?
2. What are my goals for the relationship, and how do my goals for this particular conflict affect them?
3. Are my expectations so rigid that they won’t allow the conflict resolution process to work?
4. Am I letting my own expectations be shaped or distorted by other people not involved in the conflict?
5. Are my expectations taking into account the other party’s needs, values, and constraints?
6. Am I expecting the other party to behave in ways I want them to, or think in ways I think they should? If so, what’s up with that?
7. What have I done to contribute to the cause and perpetuation of the conflict?
8. What misperceptions might the other party have of me?
9. What misperceptions might I have of the other party?
10. What is it I need differently from the other party and what would that look like?
11. What am I willing to do for the other party to show my willingness to work through our issue?
12. What are some of the workable compromises I can come to the table with?
By using these questions to self-assess and prepare, parties in conflict can put their focus more towards obtaining resolution than fault-finding. This is because much of the hard work occurs through this self-assessment process. It is also why I’m such a big fan of the preparation phase.
Part II: The Conflict Resolution Process (Formal)
I’m calling this a “formal” process because it is to be used when both parties need a structured format, particularly in cases where the working relationship is strained. I also use the process below as my outline when mediating conflicts. Keep in mind, it can be customized to fit a variety of situations.