Archive for the ‘Bernie Mayer’ Category

Conflict

November 30, 2009


Conflict- it goes without saying we need to understand it in order to help others engage and possible resolve it. It is important to know that people respond to conflict based on their experiences and their knowledge of conflict. Their knowledge includes how they were taught how to deal with conflict.

It is important also to know however that people approach conflict based on their personalities, culture and their particular role in the dispute. Bernie Mayer, in The Dynamics of Conflict Resolution, explains how he approaches this by detailing four significant factors: values and beliefs about conflict, approaches to avoiding and engaging in conflict, styles of conflict, and the roles people are draw to play in conflict (page 26).
I Values and Beliefs: three important questions to as yourself: Is conflict acceptable; how should people behave in conflict; and is conflict solvable?
II Avoiding and Engaging in Conflict.
How people avoid conflict:
Aggressive Avoidance “Don’t start with me or you’ll regret it.”
Passive Avoidance “I refuse to tango.”
Passive Aggressive Avoidance “”If you are angry at me, that’s your problem.”
Avoidance Through Hopelessness “What the use?”
Avoidance Through Surrogates “Let’s you and them fight.”
Avoidance Through Denial “If I close my eyes, it will go away.”
Avoidance Through Premature Problem Solving “There’s no conflict; I have fixed everything.”
Avoidance By Folding “OK, we’ll do it your way; now can we talk about something else”

How People Engage Conflict
Power Based Approaches– does not always have to be violent. Includes protests, boycotts, strikes, etc.
Rights Based Approaches- done by asserting their privilege or referring to existing laws and rules.
Interest Based Approaches- what lies behind the positions? Go ahead, expand that pie!
Principle-Based Approaches (Appeals to Fairness)-
Manipulative-Based Approaches (Indirection)- can be destructive (lie, cheat, mislead, untrustworthy behavior) or constructive. Bernie adds, exploited and unempowered people often have no alternative for addressing their needs in a conflict except to use indirection or manipulation (page39).
III Styles of Conflict
Cognitive Variables
Analytical Versus Intuitive
Linear Versus Holistic
Integrative Versus Distributive
Outcome Versus Process Focused
Proactive Versus Reactive
Emotional Variable
Enthusiastic Versus Reluctant
Emotional Versus Rational
Volatile Versus Unprovocable
Behavioral Variables
Direct Versus Indirect
Submissive Versus Dominant
Threatening Versus Conciliatory
IV Roles People Play in Conflict
Advocate
Decision Maker (Arbitrator)
Facilitator (Mediator)
Information Provider (Expert)
Observer (Witness, Audience)
The blog posting contains heaps of information and terms new to the ADR practitioner and terms common to the pro. Regardless of which one you are, or somewhere in between, further reading on these topics will help you as a the ADR professional help the parties you are working with regardless of your role as a neutral (mediator) or not (consultant). The book is available at many sites, including [here] at Amazon.
Enjoy!

The Reflective Practitioner: Do I Understand Myself?

July 13, 2009

The Reflective Practitioner: Do I Understand Myself?

Are you a reflective practitioner? There are many benefits to the various types of conflict resolvers- mediators, negotiators, conflict coaches, conflict skills trainers, ombudsman, etc.

Before going further into the benefits and examples of how to be a reflective practitioner, I think it is best to define it. At a recent lecture I attended given by Bernie Mayer*, he mentioned a reflective practitioner is someone who looks back on an interaction and tries to understand what you did. You check to see if there is a disconnect between your actions and the theory. The theory is that which explains how certain actions in similar situations will result in either harmful or beneficial results for you, the other party(s) or a combination of both (see image below).
A powerful comment Meyer said still distinctly stands out from the other powerful comments he made during the talk: It is in this disconnect that lies a wealth of learning.
The only way we can obtain the benefits and wealth he refers to is by taking the time to stop and reflect. What have we learned in the books and training and how does that compare to what we had just done? Are they both in sync or is there a disconnect?

An example of that reflection is during a negotiation I was involved in with a group of protesters. The leaders of the group, which totaled several hundred people including women and children, told me they wanted to march to a certain area that was off limits while knowing the result would be the protesters being arrested. They told me that was their ‘final decision’.

I could have walked away, letting them maintain their autonomy and stick with their choice. However, I decided to continue to negotiate with them by first taking a deep breath and then a few more letting everyone have an opportunity to self reflect in that current moment. Then I asked many reality checking type questions among other tools in my mediator’s toolbox. Ultimately after many stressful minutes that felt like hours, a successful resolution was achieved with no one being arrested and some of their interests still being met.

The disconnect between the theory of me allowing them to stick with their choice and the actions I took contradicting that theory provided me with a wealth of information and knowledge.
The lesson I took away after reflecting on that particular situation was that knowing theory is imperative for a practitioner. Equally important is as a practitioner, you must try the theories out for yourself to see how they work in actual situations. Of course other theories come into play in my example such as ‘is a final decision ever final?’ but the point I want to stress is the way to grow as a reflective practitioner is through this analysis.

Going back to Meyer’s talk, he discussed some “Hallmarks of a Reflective Practitioner”:

• Self observant.
• Having the ability to deconstruct our actions
• Integrate our espoused theory and theory in action.
• Travel the theory-action result loop
• Humility.

Meyer’s talk reminded me that in order for me to be a successful mediator, it is crucial for me to be a successful reflective practitioner. Including the tips mentioned above into my practice are part of the process in ensuring that I have understood myself.

(click to enlarge)

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* 2009 Summer Residency at Creighton University’s Werner Institute on Negotiation and Dispute Resolution Masters Program