Archive for the ‘Conflict resolution tips’ Category

Bond University Q Card Series (1)

December 7, 2009

Q-Card Series

John Wade, and the brilliant team at Bond University’s Dispute Resolution Centre, have a wonderful collection of “Q-Cards” which are great little golden nuggets of information to help all dispute and conflict specialists. The Q Card series are all the business card size so very convenient and easy to take with you. Learn more about the Dispute Resolution Centre at Bond University [here].

Today’s card, #8, is titled “Negotiation- Basic Principles”
Only 3 things matter- preparation, preparation, preparation. You see, real estate is not the only field with a saying that is redundant! I often incorporate this into many of my trainings and the redundancy really drives home the point of how crucial preparing is. Preparing includes not only for the specific case itself, but in certain situations, like community mediation centers and in some courts, as a mediator, you will not get your case folder until minutes, even seconds, before the case starts. Preparation can still be done here by going over your opening statements and preparing the room and notes.
Try to identify each person’s concerns, goals and priorities. Keep revising these lists. I like to note here the second part- revising. Just because you made list does not mean it cannot be altered. Even Santa checks his list more than once.
The right offer at the wrong time is the wrong offer! Timing is everything. Most times, jumping to offers right away can be the wrong move.
Begin Politely; with clear words. Set the tone and treat others the way you want to be treated. Also, this helps build rapport.
Beware threats unless you intend to carry out the threats. There’s nothing like losing credibility by saying something like, “That’s the offer, if you don’t take it, we’re leaving,” and then not leaving.
If a strategy is used against you, name it (“So is this an ambit claim?”). This is good, but also keep in mind to use it if that is the path you want to go down. Sometimes you do have to call it out, just be prepared for possible responses. Also, note, you can name it will declaring. the example given is done in the form of a question- not a declaration.
If a mistake is made, clarify and apologise immediately. Doing this not only promotes honesty but also helps build rapport.
Take Breaks. Yes, I am known to work long hours (nothing like brainstorming at 3am!) but even I realize the powerful affect a break can have. Sometimes it can be used to just get fresh air, have some tea or coffee or to ease tension.

Don’t react; rather discuss process. I similarly tell myself while preparing, “remember Jeff, respond, not react!”
Identify which goals you must gain; what can be given up. It’s could negotiating for a reason. Odds are you will not get everything you want. Looking at interests can help explore options that you thought might not have been available. Think money disputes and payment plans instead of all at once.
These are only 10 of 27 tips on the card. For more information on this card, or the series of Q Cards, contact the Centre at drc@bond.edu.au
Note: pictured above, from left to right- John Wade, Jeff Thompson and Kiwi Mediation Extraordinaire Geoff Sharpe.

Attribution Bias

June 9, 2009

As conflict resolvers, we are suppose to notice the things that others can not because we are trained to do so. We are also trained in knowing the terms of certain traits, characteristics and actions. Knowing these terms does not make one smarter than the other, or display a sense of superior mediator skills when compared to others but rather I look at it as an additional tool in the mediator’s toolbox.

Knowing these terms and also being able to identify them when being displayed in ‘real time’ is crucial as a conflict resolver. Why? One of the first tasks we are faced with is diagnosing the conflict. When looking at the circle of conflict [read more here], understanding terms such as attribution bias can help you understand the people involved and the actions they have taken.

According to Wikipedia, attribution bias is defined as a cognitive bias that affects the way we determine who or what was responsible for an event or action. Types of these biases include:

Actor-observer bias
When you do something, it is because of the circumstances of the situation but when someone else does it, it is because of their disposition.

False Consensus Effect
Believing everyone else thinks the same way they do.

Incompatiblity Bias
Assuming your interests are are not compatible with the other party.

Sinister Bias
Thinking someone acted a certain way to purposely have a negative impact on you.

You can read about many more of them [here] and read all about the cognitive biases [here].

So you might be asking again, why bother? I am not suggesting when mediating an issue between two parties, if you see one person displaying the actor-observer bias that you call them out on it. What I think can help is by recognizing what it is that they are doing will allow you to properly decide on a method that can assist the party to move away from that bias and move in a positive direction.
This short posting by no means is intend to be a lesson on attribution biases and cognitive bias. If this has sparked your interested, I suggest researching articles and papers to gain further insight at such sites like Beyond Intractability and CRINFO.

Entrapment

May 27, 2009

Entrapment, means something much different in the world of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). The legal term is basically setting someone up to commit a crime. The best example I can think of is the undercover female cop dresses up as a prostitute and makes the initial contact to potential ‘Johns’ and offering them services.

Entrapment in the ADR world is when a party, as an individual or group, feels they must continue down a certain path because they already have invested so much in this particular choice. Examples of the investment could be in the form of time, resources, or money.

Entrapment could be present in the early stages of a negotiation and also many times is a contributing factor to the escalation of a dispute or conflict. In the book Entrapment in Escalating Conflicts: A Social Psychological Analysis defines entrapment as,”a decision making process whereby individuals escalate their commitment to a previously chosen, though failing, course of action in order to justify or ‘make good on’ prior investments.”

Another way I like to explain the ADR version of entrapment is the party being guilty of having tunnel vision. All the party sees is one ‘route’ for them to take, which is the currently destructive one they are on. The best example is the person involved in litigation, and wanting to continue despite the costs rising, time lost preparing instead of being dedicating to other projects, and the decimating of what was once possibly a professional, multi-beneficial relationship with the other party.


Remember the kids show GI Joe, and the end of each episode they would give safety tips for children and end with “Knowing is half the battle.” I will not go into the whole issue of how our culture always seems to reference war, fighting and battles; that’s for a future blog post. The reference to the quote is great, now we know what entrapment is, now what? How do we help parties avoid it, and if they are unfortunately already imersed in it, move away from it?

Some quick tips are to assist the party to view the conflict not through the win-lose viewpoint or even the everyone loses stance. As I mentioned [here], zero-sum thinking is similar to the entrapment mindset in many ways. One, is emotions are heavily present and another is seeing things only on the level of positions. It is much easier to have that tunnel vision I mentioned when you think you have no other options.

This leads me to options. Expanding the choice of win-lose, lose-win, or lose-lose helps the party see there is a way out of what they see as the only choice. Brainstorming to create options involving both parties also helps breakdown the idea of battling against an adversary.

Before you even get to options, make sure everyone gets a chance to talk and tell their side of the story. Like I mentioned above, breaking down the idea of one option, talking together and listening together opens one’s mind to other choices and the potential consequences.

Entrapment in Escalating Conflicts: A Social Psychological Analysis By Brockner & Rubin available [here] and I am sure many other places

Beyond Intractabilty reviewed the above book [here]

Golden Nuggets

May 25, 2009

I decided to post some of the quick but important tips under the title ‘golden nuggets’. Why, firstly because it’s my blog and I do what i want! Secondly, and a bit more seriously, that is what I feel they are; short postings containing valuable information.

Today’s edition is if you pressed for time to give out your most valuable tips on communication, what would it be?

Tip one: I would say listen to what others are saying, don’t just ‘hear them’. Listening to them gives you valuable information and when you want more, ask an open ended question. Listen more than you speak.

Tip two would be when you do speak, chose your words and how you say them very carefully.

Tip three would be do not let emotions get the best of you. Stay calm, be the peace you want to see in others! Letting emotions get the best of you prevents you from fully being present to listen effectively and even worse, you will most say things you did not want to say.

What would you say?

The Ombuds Office at the University of Hawaii (talk about a dream job!) gives out these three tips (from here):

What you say and how you say it
*Use neutral language. Describe what you saw or heard. What sights and sounds would a video cam have recorded? “Edit out” any judgment, criticism or interpretation of what was seen or heard. * Own the message. I feel, I wish, I hope, I would like to ask. Let the conversation be about your needs or values, not what is (perceived to be) wrong with the other person, or what that person did or did not do.


What you hear and how you hear it
*Try to empathize with what the other person is feeling. By offering empathy you are simply creating a connection with the person – not stating that you agree with what was done or said.
*Acknowledge and make sure you understand the information being given to you. It’s often helpful to repeat what you heard to make sure you got it right.


What you do with the information
*Seek to understand the interests (needs, values, wants) of the other person. Ask for help in understanding why they are important to him or her.
*Search for common ground and a better future. Focus on what is desirable and possible now – you can’t negotiate the past.


Check out their great site [here]

Perception

May 24, 2009

For the 3rd and final post highlighting the Office of Quality Improvement & Office of Human Development (OHRD) at the University Wisconsin I want to first list their definition of conflict:

a disagreement through which the parties involved perceive a threat to their needs, interests or concerns.

When considering perception and how it becomes part of conflict, it is could benefit you looking at ‘perceptual filters’ which can influence our actions in a conflict. OHRD lists five factors that can shape these filters:
Culture, race, and ethnicity: Our varying cultural backgrounds influence us to hold certain beliefs about the social structure of our world, as well as the role of conflict in that experience. We may have learned to value substantive, procedural and psychological needs differently as a result, thus influencing our willingness to engage in various modes of negotiation and efforts to manage the conflict
Gender and sexuality: Men and women often perceive situations somewhat differently, based on both their experiences in the world (which relates to power and privilege, as do race and ethnicity) and socialization patterns that reinforce the importance of relationships vs. task, substance vs. process, immediacy vs. long-term outcomes. As a result, men and women will often approach conflictive situations with differing mindsets about the desired outcomes from the situation, as well as the set of possible solutions that may exist.
Knowledge (general and situational): Parties respond to given conflicts on the basis of the knowledge they may have about the issue at hand. This includes situation-specific knowledge (i.e., “Do I understand what is going on here?”) and general knowledge (i.e., “Have I experienced this type of situation before?” or “Have I studied about similar situations before?”). Such information can influence the person’s willingness to engage in efforts to manage the conflict, either reinforcing confidence to deal with the dilemma or undermining one’s willingness to flexibly consider alternatives.
Impressions of the Messenger: If the person sharing the message – the messenger – is perceived to be a threat (powerful, scary, unknown, etc.), this can influence our responses to the overall situation being experienced. For example, if a big scary-looking guy is approaching me rapidly, yelling “Get out of the way!” I may respond differently than if a diminutive, calm person would express the same message to me. As well, if I knew either one of them previously, I might respond differently based upon that prior sense of their credibility: I am more inclined to listen with respect to someone I view as credible than if the message comes from someone who lacks credibility and integrity in my mind.

Previous experiences: Some of us have had profound, significant life experiences that continue to influence our perceptions of current situations. These experiences may have left us fearful, lacking trust, and reluctant to take risks. On the other hand, previous experiences may have left us confident, willing to take chances and experience the unknown. Either way, we must acknowledge the role of previous experiences as elements of our perceptual filter in the current dilemma.

You can learn more about this and other topics on conflict from the OHRD site [here].

8 Steps For Conflict Resolution

May 18, 2009

The second post (see the first here) highlighting OHRD (of Wisconsin University) and their tips on ADR will focus on what they call the “8 Steps For Conflict Resolution”, which is a process they recommend for effectively managing conflict- be it in the workplace, at home, and relationships among others.

They are as follows (from this link here):

1. “Know Thyself” and Take Care of Self
Understand your “perceptual filters,” biases, triggers
Create a personally affirming environment (eat, sleep, exercise)

2. Clarify Personal Needs Threatened by the Dispute
Substantive, Procedural, and Psychological Needs
Look at BATNA, WATNA, and MLATNA
Identify “Desired Outcomes” from a Negotiated Process

3. Identify a Safe Place for Negotiation
Appropriate Space for Discussion/ Private and Neutral
Mutual Consent to Negotiate/ Appropriate Time
Role of Support People (Facilitators, Mediators, Advocates), as needed
Agreement to Ground rules


4.
Take a Listening Stance into the Interaction
“Seek first to understand, then to be understood” (Covey)
Use Active Listening skills

5. Assert Your Needs Clearly and Specifically
Use “I-messages” as tools for clarification
Build from what you have heard – continue to listen well

6. Approach Problem-Solving with Flexibility
Identify Issues Clearly and Concisely
Generate Options (Brainstorm), While Deferring Judgment
Be open to “tangents” and other problem definitions
Clarify Criteria for Decision-Making

7. Manage Impasse with Calm, Patience, and Respect
Clarify Feelings
Focus on Underlying Needs, Interests, and Concerns
Take a structured break, as needed

8. Build an Agreement that Works
“Hallmarks” of a Good Agreement
Implement and Evaluate – Live and Learn


Note: you can click each title, as it will give a more in depth description. For the main OHRD site, click [here].