Slow down and practice inside-out problem-solving.
Using good process
Good problem-solving process is like a reliable roadmap — it orients us to where we are, helps us identify an effective route to our desired destination, and helps us find an alternate route around obstructions. We disagree better when we have a coherent process for organizing information and navigating difficult conversations.
It’s tempting to feel triumphant when we successfully back our nemesis into a figurative corner. But it’s ill-advised triumph. Here are ways to address and prevent cornering in your own and others’ conflicts.
It feels natural to take notes while mediating or coaching, and coaching and mediation notes serve a purpose. While jotting down something really important is useful, taking notes throughout the session is often a mistake. Here’s how note-taking can be a bad habit and a barrier to effective mediating and coaching. In a recent conflict […]
If you’re trying to solve a tough problem, is it better to push on through or take a brain break? Is it better to be out in nature or will the sidewalk do? Is it better to build on an offered idea or disagree and criticize it? Yes. When I’m teaching mediators, I like to […]
The 9-dot puzzle has been around for a while now, so maybe you’ve seen it. It’s a permanent resident of my conflict resolution activities toolbox. Here’s what it is and how I use it in conflict resolution to help clients problem-solve more creatively (as well as a Part 2 of the exercise that may be […]
One of the hardest tasks I face as a mediator and coach is helping people make big, difficult choices for themselves. Here’s how I use a refreshing and liberating new framework to help my clients decide between options when there is no clear frontrunner.
If you want to boost creative problem-solving or get a fresh perspective, then get up from your conference room table and climb out of those comfy living room chairs. Walking is better. Years ago, I took two mediation clients on a long walk through city streets when they were very stuck and frustrated in the […]
It can feel very gratifying to sort out a sticky problems for other people. But the fixer habit can backfire, leaving you burned out and them not used to handling problems themselves. Years ago, a student came to my office with a problem. I was a dean at the time and I had many appointments […]
Next time you’re putting pressure on someone in a disagreement, step back and do what this political canvasser did when he knocked on our door recently.
Uncommon but also learnable.
A lesson from theatrical improv can teach us a powerful way to respond effectively to blame. “I’m getting blamed for everything,” she said. “Every time I talk to my husband about our problems, he blames me.” She wanted to know, understandably, how to stop the cycle and the blameshifting. Mediators ask me how to manage […]
Is it better to start with the biggest issues, then work out the ancillary or other smaller issues? Or will you be better off sorting out a bunch of smaller issues before taking on the big one? Here’s how to decide.
When a conflict has been going on for a while, other ancillary conflicts tend to sprout around it. And sometimes those ancillary conflicts will linger even once the central conflict is resolved. It is the nature of conflict and here’s what to do about it.
Ed Catmull, President of Pixar and Disney Animation, puts it this way: “There is the problem you know you are trying to solve–think of that as an oak tree–and then there are all the other problems–think of these as saplings–that sprouted from the acorns that fell around it. And these problems remain after you cut the oak tree down.”
And he tells a great story to illustrate his point…
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. […]
This is a letter intended for anyone who may wish to hire me for conflict resolution training in their organization.
When an organization approaches me for conflict resolution training or negotiation training, I find that there are certain conversation threads that come up again and again. So, I thought I would mention them here, in anticipation of a future time when we may speak about your organization’s conflict resolution and training needs. I hope they’re helpful to your thinking about what you need from a trainer and to your assessment of my fit for the assistance you seek.
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 worth figuring out
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 […]