History and Philosophy

Conflict Resolution: Strategies vs Trust

Drop Cap Letter QWith connecting over needs and empathizing with feelings going on, people don’t get hung up on strategies. Why not table discussion of strategies until there is universal agreement that all parties fully and deeply understand and appreciate each other’s feelings and needs, then strategies need not be points of conflict— but of creativity to find solutions that work for all.

The reason Gerard was unable to use Kees Boeke’s style of consensus decision-making is that in the workplace, people are not interested in or expected to connect over [emotional] needs or empathize with feelings. A business generally can’t wait until everyone, in Boeke’s words “loves and trusts” each other, or stop the work for personal conflict resolution. An organization might require this and it might be necessary when a problem is clearly about emotional reactions between two people or a group of people and it is seriously affecting productivity in a small business or a work unit. But normally tensions unrelated to the aim/role/job probably need other resolutions. But this is not properly the role of the circle or the operations leader to resolve, though they may. The work can usually not be set aside until this is resolved.

Clear Aims and Conflict Resolution

Not expecting people to make connections at an emotional level allows more people and more diverse people to work together in a job situation. Clear aims and roles prevent many conflicts from occurring. Many if not most conflicts are not the result of interpersonal misunderstandings but lack of clarity in the organization, the environment.

A difference in aim affects the approach to conflict used. In a community, the emotional needs/reactions of members (except in case of pathology) often is the aim of the community.  In this case it would be the work of the community and part of the governance of the community. Non-Violent Communication (NVC) could easily be the method of choice for addressing this kind of situation. Some cohousing professionals, for example, are recommending that all members of a new community have such training. A designated person, external or internal, might be identified to fill this role. 

NVC and Sociocracy

We’ve had a lot of discussion on the sociocracy@yahoogroups.com list about NVC and sociocracy. A few years ago some people were equating them. They are not the same class of things. They are not inter-changeable. Sociocracy is a method of designing and managing organizations effectively. NVC is a technique for sorting out needs and identifying means of addressing them. They are complimentary but have different aims.

Personal trust and empathy won’t address all conflicts and expectations that may be present. And it isn’t always possible or necessary for effective action. 

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