I’ve seen a lot of great conflict resolution models and theories over the years. Many of them take a bit of cognitive capacity to grasp and especially to remember in the heat of conflict. When conflict shows up in a group, the higher mental faculties (of those in conflict and my own) aren’t often operating at their peak. During times like these, if we use a model at all, it needs to be very simple and memorable.
Go back to the last time you were in the midst of a conflict. What did it feel like in your body? For me, my head heats up and thoughts are comin fast. It almost feels like I need an aspirin. I offer the following model that we can hopefully remember and actually use when things heat up.
Simple Strategy for Dealing With Conflict
When people get bothered and tension rises, it may be time for an ASPIRIN…
A: Ally. Befriend the conflictor(s). Let them know that you are there for them, looking out for their needs and interests.
S: Specifics. Ask the conflictor to describe their specific concern. Find out what they see, hear, and feel and the meaning they ascribe to these perceptions.
P: Protection. Balance protecting the group with protecting the conflictor(s). Maintain an environment that is safe for everyone. You may have to be a traffic cop here, enforcing basic operating agreements, and putting a stop to disrespectful behavior. A break might even be required to let everyone cool down for a few minutes.
I: Interests. Inquire into the conflictor’s personal or professional interests. Find out how what they want and why they want it.
R: Review. Rephrase what you’ve heard so far and help the group decide if they would benefit by processing this issue now or deciding on another time and place.
I: Improvise. Use the above guidelines to generate and synthesize options for a course of action that feels right for all concerned. Trust your instincts and intuition.
N: Norms. Is the source of the problem you just encountered covered in your operating agreements or ground rules? If not, check in with group to see if they should be modified to prevent similar issues from arising in the future.
Is this a strategy you’d be willing to try in your groups or in your own life? What simple model have you used for resolving conflict that you’ve found to be effective? I’d love to hear from you! Please share your questions, feedback, or experience in the comments section below.