The usual question when faced with a conflict is, “How can we resolve it?” But what if there’s a better question to ask — and one that might even help us be more creative with our solutions? A group of students at the Art Institute of Chicago approached two large tables holding 27 random objects. […]
Good problem-solving process
The way we structure and orchestrate a problem-solving conversation influences not only how the conversation unfolds, but also the solutions that become visible and the quality of participation by all involved. The following articles offer insights and ideas about using good problem-solving process to formulate and lead conversations that enable great ideas and decisions to be illuminated.
When friends, loved ones, and colleagues tell us about a conflict they’re experiencing, how we respond helps shape their conflict story. And what they do next.
A friend who mediates legal cases was regaling me with a story about a court employee who treated her with disrespect. As I listened to my friend’s description of the employee’s behavior, I felt outrage on my friend’s behalf. I heard myself say,
You’ve got this.
It’s a mistake to conflate good supervision and the habit of intervening in employees’ conflicts. Not only with the habit wear you out eventually and take energy away from other important responsibilities, but you will miss prime opportunities to help your staff cultivate their own good skills.
At one of my recent workshops, a participant shared this great case in point:
It’s early July of 1776 and the Continental Congress is meeting in Philadelphia. At stake: Will the colonies join in a declaration of independence from Great Britain? A pivotal figure in the debate is John Dickinson, Quaker member of the Pennsylvania delegation. He has spoken passionately of his desire to avoid the catastrophic bloodshed he […]
Good mediators know how to start a mediation in the best way for the particular people in the room with them at that very moment. They do not always start a mediation the same way from habit or because someone taught them to do it one way 10 years ago. They start at the beginning. […]
If you are a manager or leader, you will be pressed to fix problems by suggesting or implementing solutions of your own. So work is fertile ground for you to learn how to resist the temptation some of the time. Practice helping them fix problems themselves. You’ll get credit for helping them develop and mature […]
I stepped onto the sidewalk with my two mediation clients. It was a beautiful, sunny day in Boston, about 70 degrees, with a very light breeze. It felt great to be outdoors. They thought so, too. I pointed down the block. “Let’s head in the general direction of Chinatown,” I said as we began to […]
Sometimes, the most direct path into a difficult conversation or mediation is the most indirect one. Taking the time to help people ease into the work of conflict resolution can turn out to be very efficient. My mediator friend N knows how to start a mediation like no one else. His approach works equally well […]
Creativity and conflict can be important bedfellows. If you’re a fan of traditional brainstorming and its usual rules to generate creative ideas and solutions, it’s time to reconsider.
In problem solving it’s common for people to follow the 20/80 rule: They spend 20 percent of their time understanding the problem effectively, and 80 percent of their time generating and debating solutions. It’s far more time efficient and effective to flip that ratio and follow the 80/20 rule instead.
“Our memories are not designed to provide a truthful readout of the events of our lives. Memory is designed to help us act in the future.” I read this quote in a Psychology Today article about how observing actions influences our memory of those actions. It sums up beautifully the way we can use and […]
The eBay buyer filed for online mediation. The item in question was a Barbie doll petticoat. The cost of the petticoat she’d just purchased on eBay? Less than $5. The cause of the conflict was a $5 Barbie petticoat? Apropos, I remember thinking, when I received the mediation case. Petty is the right word for […]
When you’re sorting out conflict, make sure you’re solving the right problem. I tell my clients, “When you try to solve the wrong problem, you end up with solutions that won’t serve you well and you may not even know why the problem-solving meetings didn’t work. When you take time to name the right problem […]
There’s an old Zen koan, or traditional story, about the fallacy of rituals that have lost their relevance: During every evening meditation, the Zen master’s cat made so much noise with his plaintive meows that it drove both the master and his students to distraction. So the master ordered that his cat be fed freshly […]
Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether or not your adversary is as interested in working things out as you are. We all do things in our own time, as the following story illustrates.
Sometimes you’ve got to slow down to go fast.
This is a story about the way a photograph saved an international peace negotiation. You can use the same idea in your own difficult conversations. In 1978, Egypt President Anwar Sadat, and Israel Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed the Camp David Accords, a treaty brokered by U.S. President Jimmy Carter and for which Sadat and […]
Runaway stories and effective interpersonal conflict resolution are like oil and water. Runaway stories are the experience of telling yourself a tall tale about the person you’re in conflict with. You catastrophize the situation, or project your own stuff onto them, or amplify their less commendable traits in the story you tell yourself. And the […]
When important matters and decisions are on the table for discussion, conversation can get a little tricky and difficult sometimes. You can prevent the conversation from getting tangled and tripped up by common pitfalls with a little care in language choice and a few simple strategies for staying on track and making clear decisions. I’ve […]
If you’re a design professional, you may already subscribe to HOW Magazine, the graphic design community’s trusted source for creative inspiration, business advice, and tools of the trade. Is the December 2007 issue sitting in your reading pile? Pull it on out and turn to page 85! That’s where you’ll find Mastering Difficult Conversations, for […]
One of my recent conflict resolution workshop participants raised his hand. “How do you know when it’s worth raising an issue and when it would be better to let it go?”
Have you ever been bursting with a great idea, only to have the door metaphorically shut in your face? I call those dialogue-stoppers “door closers,” and while they’re often delivered in a way that sounds firm and permanent, the right question can often re-open that door.
Mediation ground rules come up now and then in the graduate mediation classes I teach or in my mediation trainings. Since I don’t set ground rules at the beginning of my mediations, and this often causes a stir among mediators who’ve been trained otherwise, I thought I’d outline my reasons here for reference.
Some disputes are worth your effort. Some are worth turning your back and walking away. How do you when to talk and when to walk? I offer the following seven questions as an informal litmus test for you to use when you’re trying to decide: Can I let this go…really let it go? Sometimes you […]
Some of you know I’m a dog lover and that Rod and I share our home life with a giant canine named Hugo and a wee guy, Luigi. And two cats. Hugo is a mutt, Golden Retriever and Newfoundland. A couple of weeks ago, he suffered his third idiopathic vestibular incident. It’s a mystifying syndrome […]
When I was in grad school years ago, Dr. Robert Nash was the primary instructor for ethics. I heard horror stories from other students. The general consensus seemed to be, Nash likes to inflict pain, so avoid this elective. I enrolled anyway and it’s one of the best courses I’ve ever taken, from one of […]
I recently finished co-teaching a basic mediation workshop I deliver about four times a year to people from many different backgrounds. In this most recent workshop, we had a social worker, several attorneys, a nurse practitioner, a teacher, a builder, two human resources directors, a college student, a human development trainer, and a long-retired World […]
Originally coined by Wired Magazine’s Gareth Branwyn, blamestorming is meeting to discuss why something went wrong (a failed project, a missed deadline, a PR mess, a tech disaster) and who is responsible. In blamestorming, “who is responsible” is the real focus. This is an example, courtesy of the Urban Dictionary: I just got out of […]