So in the course of writing pocketconflictcoach within my ongoing Mediation In Your Pocket project, I’ve prepared a list of questions that will be presented in interactive forms to those entering the site’s conflict engagement engine, those visitors who are looking to engage constructively with the person or company with whom they’re in conflict.
It occurred to me that there’s no reason not to share this list, as I think it could be useful for mediators and conflict interveners thinking of how best to prepare their clients for the process of conflict resolution, how to encourage them to reach for the stars and open their minds to all possibilities. No doubt by the time the engine goes live the list will have changed a little, but in the meantime you’re very welcome to take what you need from this, jiggle it about to your liking, and let me know what you think.
1. your details:
2. is your conflict with a person or a company?
3. details of the person or company with whom you’re in conflict
4. [if it’s to do with a person] if you’re in, or have been in, a personal relationship with the person with whom you’re in conflict, do you feel safe right now, or do you feel at risk of physical or verbal violence?
* if the answer is yes, I would recommend following the guidelines in your jurisdiction for guiding or referring the client in respect of third party assistance for the likes of coercive control or domestic abuse.
what’s your conflict about?
1. in your own words, what’s your conflict about? try to keep it short, so pick out the main information you think needs to be put across.
2. thanks so much for putting across what’s been troubling you. that can’t have been easy. so, take some time and try to think carefully about what it is that’s really getting to you about this conflict. what do you think is at the heart of all this?
3. to put it another way, can you describe how going through this conflict has made you feel?
4. and where has all this led to? in other words, what’s happened because of the conflict, where has it left you, those involved, and the person or company with whom you’re in conflict?
5. and how has it affected you outside the conflict, in your daily life and work?
6. so if things continue like this, if you don’t manage to work it out, to resolve this conflict, what’s the worst case scenario for you or those involved? what do you think is the worst that could happen?
7. and how do you think that would impact on you, on your life?
8. is it fair to say that, given the choice, you’d rather avoid that situation if possible?
9. let’s put this another way. you’ve talked about the worst case scenario. if things continue like this, if you don’t manage to work it out using this process, what’s your BEST case scenario? this doesn’t mean what’s your ideal outcome from this process, but rather, what’s your best estimate of what you’d accept to end this conflict if you couldn’t resolve it here, if you had to go elsewhere to deal with the conflict, for example to court or a tribunal?
10. so what’s the point you think would walk away from this process and try and achieve that best case scenario?
let’s dig a little deeper
1. ok, so that’s where you are now. thanks again for clearing that up. what you’ve been going through has brought you here now. it’s a choice you’ve made and you’re looking to sort things out. hopefully this process can help you do that. so here’s quite a hard question to kick things off, and you should think pretty carefully about this before you answer – thinking about this conflict, what’s important to you right now?
2. and so bearing that in mind, what would you like to happen during this process? what would you like to achieve?
3. ok, so crystal ball, magic wand time. if you could get there, if this conflict could get sorted out, what would that look like for you? how would your life, or the lives of those involved, be different?
4. what do you think would need to happen to get to that stage? try to think of positive actions that might help, instead of things or behaviours that need to stop.
5. right, so you’ve decided to try this process to move in that direction, to find a way of sorting things out. so, putting aside your differences for a moment, what is it about this person or company that makes you think this conflict could be moved forward using this process?
6. and in turn, what qualities might they say you have that would help make this process begin to work through your conflict?
7. what do you think they would say the conflict is about?
8. if you think they might say this, what do you feel they’re not understanding?
9. thinking of any communication you’ve had with them about all this, would they say you’ve made that as clear as you can to them?:
10. and what might they say you’ve done to add to the conflict? is there a bit of truth there? if you’re being as honest as you can be, what part of what they might say is close to the truth?
so how will you move forward in this conflict?
1. looking forward, what ideas do you have that might help sort things out? what proposals do you think might work? try to put down at least three.
2. ok, can you say a little more about that? how might those ideas, those proposals, work in reality? how would they help?
3. if you reached an understanding about those proposals, what positive things would the person or company with whom you’re in conflict need to do or to change to make that happen?
4. thinking of how this might be achieved, what positive things about the person or company do you think they’d be able to put to good use to end your conflict?
5. and if they did this, what would you think about that?
6. what do you think you would need to do or to change to sort things out in the way you mentioned?
7. so thinking again about the person or company with whom you’re in conflict, where they might be coming from, what do you think they’d like to happen here? what’s their best case scenario?
8. putting aside for a moment whether or not you agree with what they might hope for to end this conflict, let’s say this actually came about, that it happened and you had to live with it. how would you make that work?
9. and again, putting aside what’s getting in the way at the moment, how would you describe positively the type of relationship you’d like to have with this person or company, or the type of resolution you’d like to reach?
10. are you willing to live up to those words in this process, to try your best to be respectful and to focus on moving forward?
let’s wrap this up
1. so let’s wrap this up nicely. can you summarise what you’d like to happen here, the goal you’d like to be achieved?
2. and what’s underlying that, what do you actually need?
3. what do you think the person or company with whom you’re in conflict wants to happen here?
4. and again, what you think’s underlying that, what do they actually need?
5. so pulling all that together, how do you think you can both reach a point where you can put this conflict behind you, move on with a resolution that you can both live with? both of you might not be totally happy about the outcome, but is there an end result here that you could both make work?