When we're faced with any conflict of interests, there are two bad solutions readily available. We can win at the expense of our opponent or let them win at our expense. In both cases, subsequent conflicts will involve greater mistrust, suspiciousness and defensiveness. The outcome will leave a residue which undermines initiative, cooperation and follow-through. The losing side will be thinking about how to retaliate rather than how to honor the commitments, improve the relationship or re-establish some common ground.
These bad solutions get produced by taking positional stances against opposing positional stances. These stances may make demands, attack others' positions or seek to intimidate others into backing down. They cannot show interest in others' interests or reveal one's own interests for their consideration. Taking positions overrules authentic dialogue. The positions get black-boxed rather than opened up or looked into.
Solving a conflict for pattern begins by switching from adopting positional stances to embracing one's own assemblage of interests. That provides a basis for then taking in an interest in others' interests. When interests come together, there are often common interests in the mix. There are also diverse interests that may share a common solution. There can even be solutions that evolve the conflicted initial interests into more inclusive, considerate and holistic agendas.
Solving a conflict for pattern takes awareness of communication patterns. When the use of adversarial tactics becomes evident, it becomes possible to de-scalate the adversarial context with any of the following collaborative tactics:
- acknowledging the opponent's dedication to principles, long standing commitment to do the right thing and compassion for their constituencies
- speaking the opponent's mind about how they've been treated and disregarded during the conflict
- picturing the opponent as deserving of respect, consideration and dignity
- restating the opponents' issues, concerns and objections to show they've been heard and to confirm a correct understanding of that input
- admitting that one's own prior tactics have had the reverse effect on the relationship, trust levels and distance between stances
- offering a conciliatory gesture or initial concession to open up the process of mutual exploration
- posing a side problem where collaboration is non-threatening and both sides can gain experience of working well with each other
These collaborative tactics transform the basis for resolving the conflict. New patterns get introduced for seeing each other, relating to each others' interests and finding solutions together. The resolution of the conflict grows out of these patterns, rather than being in the control of either side. Participants experience letting go to let it happen emergently.