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It’s a Celebration: Conflict Resolution Day!

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In 2005 the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) established a worldwide initiative- Conflict Resolution Day, which occurs every third Thursday in October. The purpose of this day is for dispute resolution practitioners to celebrate and raise awareness about conflict resolution methods such as mediation, arbitration, conciliation, etc. The logo designed for this event is a tree rooted in the ground with leaves that depict the avenues in which an individual can resolve conflict: mediation, conciliation, facilitation, arbitration, negation. Our logo of the tree was designed as a symbol to celebrate growth in Conflict Resolution. The first year, start small, but just like the tree the seeds you plant one year, will continue to grow and blossom each year (ACR.com). As an annual occasion, many organizations have established numerous events/programs in honor of Conflict Resolution Day. This year on October 16th the following programs/events are being held (please note this is only a partial list):

Conflict Resolution Day Activity Suggestions:

  • Create conflict resolution promotional material and distribute it to the public on Conflict Resolution Day
  • Hold a conflict resolution workshop at a local college or university
  • Recognize conflict resolution leaders and or volunteers in your community
  • Produce t-shirts, mugs or other items supporting conflict resolution
  • Propose story ideas to print and broadcast media

What will you do to celebrate Conflict Resolution Day?

To learn more about Conflict Resolution Day visit the ACRnet.org click on the home page/education & training/conflict resolution day.

By Yvette Watson Jenkins

Graduate Student, University of Baltimore – Negotiation and Conflict Management Program

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Back to the Basics: What is Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)?

Yvette WatsonADR is a method of resolving disputes without going through the litigation process. Litigation can become costly and very time consuming. Litigation has a negative connotation and can be a result of permanently damaging friendships or partnerships, ruined reputations, and even financial catastrophes. ADR has been around for decades and the processes are used to resolve conflicts in a more cost effective and timely manner. The advantages of using ADR processes to resolve disputes can be:

• Cost effective
• Time Saving
• Participant’s control in an ADR process
• Creative outcomes save relationships
• Confidential

While there are several ADR processes this post will only discuss arbitration, mediation, and negotiation. Some of these processes involve a neutral-third party’s assistance in resolving a dispute whereas others rely on the parties themselves.

Arbitration involves two sides presenting their dispute to a neutral third party (arbitrator) who decides the final outcome. If the parties agreed to a binding arbitration the arbiters ruling is final with little to no chance of an appeal. Arbitration is appropriate when the parties do not want to make the final decision themselves. Parties have little control of the process and relinquish decision-making to the arbitrator.

Mediation is a voluntary process by which a neutral third party (mediator) assists 2 or more individuals in discussing the issues and formulating a mutual agreement. The mediator is bound by confidentiality and leaves the decision-making in the hands of the disputants. Mediation is appropriate when parties want to preserve the relationship, reputation and want more control of the outcome and process.

Negotiation is a direct discussion between parties to resolve the dispute themselves. The discussion involves both parties bargaining for their needs and interests to achieve their goals. Depending on their approach, the outcome can either be a collaborative win-win outcome or a competitive win-lose situation

When ADR is/is not Appropriate?

Not all disputes can or should be resolved through ADR. It is my opinion that ADR is not an appropriate avenue for domestic violence or child endangerment disputes because of the severity of the cases. If not handled properly, these situations can result in violence, unequal distribution of power, or even death. These cases should be handled through the court system. ADR can be used if the parties want to retain their current relationship, trust between the parties is low, a new perspective is needed, etc. Not sure if your case is ADR appropriate check out FERC.gov – Is ADR Appropriate for My Dispute?

Need Additional Information?

Refer to the Frequently Asked Questions section of the National Arbitration Forum website for arbitration and mediation. Beyond Intractability has a informative article on negotiation. As always, check out our Podcast Directory for episodes on mediation and arbitration at The Texas Conflict Coach.

By Yvette Watson Jenkins
Graduate Student, University of Baltimore – Negotiation and Conflict Management Program

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The Dreaded Conversation: How to Confront a Family Member

Family_In_CarSummer is FINALLY here! The kids are out of school. Aren’t you itching to plan a family vacation? This means more bonding time with kids, in-laws, parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. (Yay!). Spending numerous hours day-end-and-day out your extended family can be quite overwhelming. I will share a story of a husband and wife vacationing at a beach house with their in-laws, spouse’s siblings, and their children followed by tips on how to confront a family member before the conflict escalates.

The Beach House Drama

Imagine you and your spouse are asked to spend a free week, all expenses paid vacation, at a beach house for a week with your in-laws and spouses siblings, and their kids. Weeks leading up to the vacation the only thing you can think about is catching up on some lost sleep and relaxing on the sand reading a book. The first day was amazing – you woke up at 10AM and lounged at the beach for most of the day. Later that evening, you bonded with the kids and in-laws. At 7AM the following morning, you are woken by your mother-in-law playing a yoga video. Not letting it ruffle your feathers, you get yourself back to sleep. On the third day, the same video wakes you up at 7AM. Fed up, you confide in your spouse about the noise asking, why does she have to do yoga at 7am? Your spouse says deal with it and go back to sleep. Not wanting to ruin the last few days arguing with your spouse or holding a grudge against your mother-in-law, you decide to confront her.

Having the Difficult Conversationfamily drama blog

When confronting a family member it is important to enter the conversation with a clear, open mind and be willing to listen and possibly compromise. In the book, Difficult Conversations the authors attribute delivering a difficult message to “throwing a hand grenade.” No matter how it’s delivered it will cause damage (Stone, D., Patton, B., & Heen, S. ,1999). The authors advise us to:

  • Understand what has happened from the other person’s point of view (perhaps the mother-in-law didn’t know she was disturbing the whole house)
  • Explain your point of view (you are on vacation to sleep in and do not want to wake up at 7AM to loud noises)
  • Share your feelings (being woken up out of sleep makes you grouchy all day)
  • Work together to figure out a way to manage the problem going forward (choose a different workout time, turn the TV down, close the bedroom door, do yoga with your mother-in –law)

Being understanding and open will hopefully allow both parties to see each other’s point of view and soften the blow of the grenade. However, you spend your summer do not let family conflict get in the way of a great time! Be open to having that difficult conversation.

By Yvette Watson Jenkins

Graduate Student, University of Baltimore – Negotiation and Conflict Management Program

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Puzzle of Life: Where Does Conflict Fit?

Conflict is one piece of many in this puzzle we call life. One must know how to strategically place it into the puzzle so it does not interfere with the big picture called life. The conflict piece can come in many forms and shapes because it is forever changing. Intrapersonal picAs the puzzle master, one must use recognition and discovery to solve the pattern. There might perhaps, be a time where the piece may not fit perfectly. It is up to the individual to determine the correct place to put the piece in order to solve the puzzle.

To begin solving the puzzle it is important to start with the conflict(s) occurring within oneself. Conflicts occurring within are known in the conflict resolution field as intrapersonal conflict. The prefix intra as described by Dictionary.com is a prefix meaning “within”. These types of conflicts develop from our own, thoughts, ideas, values, emotions, assumptions, and self-criticism, etc.

Have you ever had a conversation with yourself? Felt restlessness or uneasiness about a certain situation? These thoughts and emotions can be described as intrapersonal conflict. For example, a friend was telling me about an internal problem she has been having recently. Over the past few months she has been contemplating about whether or not to purchase a new home. She is currently in an apartment and having a problem with the neighbor living above her. During the night she can hear the neighbor’s television, loud arguing, doors slamming and the smell of smoke coming through the vents. The thought of home owning seems very appeasing at the moment. She has never confronted the neighbor for fear of unnecessary tension between the two. Instead she bottles it up and acts as if a problem does not exist until the noise and smoke appear. Because she is the only one aware of the problem she does not consider it a conflict. It is only if and when she confronts the neighbor that she has engaged in interpersonal conflict…now we all know there is a problem.

To combat interpersonal conflict, there are several avenues she can make: retaliate and make noise of her own during odd hours, burn incense to block out the smoke coming through the vents, forgo speaking to the neighbor and contact the rental office, request a new apartment, confront the neighbor, etc. Making the wrong decision can have a major impact on her life. Questions she should consider are: what affect will the smoke have on my health, how will the decision affect my personal life, why should I stay, what options should I consider if I stay or move?

For additional help on developing questions for your interpersonal conflict consider The CINERGY® Conflict Management Coaching Blog – ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) by Cinnie Noble.

Yvette Watson Jenkins
University of Baltimore Negotiation and Conflict Management

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The Other Side of Conflict – There is a Light

Conflict is inevitably a way of life. While it may cause pain and hurt, or even suffering, without conflict the world would be Conflict photomundane, everyone would agree, there would be no fighting, etc.  Sounds wonderful, right? Think again.  If the world were conflict-free, I would not need to write this blog, there would be no Texas Conflict Coach®, and the conflict resolution field would be nonexistent.   Did you know conflict can bring understanding? You see, not all conflict is considered negative and destructive.  Although most of us think that we would enjoy a conflict-free world, it is not beneficial to the progression of our daily lives.  Conflict can lead us to appreciate another person’s point of view, brainstorm ideas with one another, engage in much needed conversations, etc.

Conflict can occur anywhere at any time.  One can encounter conflict at home with their spouse or kids, at work with colleagues, or standing in line at the grocery store.  It is not until recently that I learned how to transform conflict into a positive experience that can benefit all parities involved.  Conflict during work has allowed us to think differently and creatively (why do you think corporations encourage team work).  Conflict with my spouse has allowed us to reevaluate situations and as a result create better outcomes.

To turn a conflicting situation into a positive experience, I would suggest following these simple strategies:

  • Let the other person talk first: hear the full story before interjecting
  • Put yourself in that person’s shoes: understand their point of view
  • Take responsibility: own your role in the conflict (and yes, you have played a role)
  • Remain calm: keep a positive or neutral attitude

Did you know– It is important for both sides to voice their opinions during a conflicting situation?  You see, fighting (nonviolently, of course) allows for an exchange of feelings, thoughts, and needs between the individuals or groups involved.  It is okay to become irritated during a conflicting situation but one must not let the irritation interfere with the goal of resolving the difference.  Karmit Bulman said it best in her program entitled: Conflict Talk – A Road Map for How to Get to the Table: “If you solve the other person’s problem you can solve your own”. Are you up to the challenge?

By Yvette Watson Jenkins

Graduate Student, University of Baltimore – Negotiation and Conflict Management Program

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