Recently, my colleague, Maria Simpson, Ph.D., in her Two Minute Training blog discussed the mechanics of the conflict resolution process. That is, going through the steps in the process in the right order or somewhat the right order so that a resolution can indeed be reached. By using the guidelines she sets out, the “cart will not be put before the horse” or the “barn door opened after the horses are gone”. Her steps are easy to remember:

Four A’s: Acknowledge, Accept, Appreciate, Apologize.

Acknowledge: that a problem, conflict, misunderstanding exists. Climb out of the comfort of denial.

Accept: responsibility for being part of the conflict even if you got dragged into it. Too late for that defense.

Appreciate: the interests of all parties in the discussion. You may dismiss the interests of the other party or consider them trivial, but they are not any more trivial than your own and deserve to be respected. Without acknowledging them and taking them into consideration in the resolution, the conflict will not go away….

Apologize: when you have done something wrong but not before understanding what you might be apologizing for. Apologizing is sometimes recommended as the first thing to do in a difficult situation. It helps the other parties understand that you are serious about reaching a fair resolution, that you recognize your role in the problem, and that you take their interests seriously. Needless to say, the apology has to be sincere….

Sam Horn, who wrote Tongue Fu!, had a few other A’s in her process that are worth including. Her system is Acknowledge, Ask, Appreciate.

Acknowledge the other party’s feelings. Don’t discount how anyone feels. That can be an indication of what is needed for a lasting resolution.

Ask a curious, not a challenging, question. Ask for information so that more options for resolution can be created than what seem to be on the table at the moment. A challenging question is often used as an accusation (ISN’T IT TRUE THAT . . . !!!) and that will push people away from the discussion and into impasse.

Appreciate the other people involved, and try to get their needs met as well as your own.

Sam also included Apologize, and I add the caution of not apologizing too quickly or you may apologize for something for which you are not responsible. In that case, be sure that an apology doesn’t mean “I take full responsibility” when you really mean, “It’s terrible that this happened to you.”

Actually, it might not really matter which of these A’s you remember. They’re all helpful, and the process works at home, at work, or in a formal dispute resolution situation.

Maybe the last A should be “Attempt” to incorporate these steps into your discussions so that disagreements might settle faster.

Especially at this time of year, fraught with stress due to the great expectations brought on by the holidays and all of the stuff that must be accomplished by year’s end, I think Dr. Simpson’s words strike a vital chord. To avoid having the most trivial of things getting blown way out proportion, acknowledge rather than ignore that the issue exists, accept responsibility rather than deny it and appreciate where everyone else is coming from. They, too, have their own stressors and while it may not seem to be an “issue” to you, to them, it may be a very large one ; take a moment and understand why this may be so, from their point of view, and finally, where necessary, apologize. Apologies do wonders as long as they are sincere and meaningful.

So, in this last blog for the year, I want to acknowledge and thank each of you for all you have done for my blog, my mediation practice and me. I appreciate that without you, my business would not exist. Thank you for your support.

Finally, I want to wish each of you a very Happy Holiday and a wonderful New Year. May it bring you good health, peace, prosperity and joy!

I am taking the holidays off…. I will be back in early January 2013.

Until then …. Just something to think about!

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