Okay, you come back from a customer sales meeting, or a management meeting or any business meeting where you did not get the results you wanted…and you think:
• “It’s too bad they never sat down and talked”
• “I tried to talk, but it always turns into a debate”
• “Talking to them is like talking to a brick wall”

Conflict has been given a bad rap and the word “dispute” has even worse image problems. Fear of conflict probably ranks right up there with death, taxes and root canals. When a problem surfaces ( usually as a knot in the pit of the stomach), we are pretty much out there on our own. Most of us have little or no training, and very little confidence that we can get our needs met without a lot of stress and unpleasantness.

Since conflict occurs from three general categories of issues: resources, needs and values, we can start to build our blocks of agreement by: 1) the choices we use of “talking it out”; and, 2) the strategies for managing the dispute. In this article, we will review the choices we have of talking it out. There are six basic choices of “talking it out” to review and their effects on the dispute situation.

Verbal Brawling
• No concern for consequences for violations of decency or truth
• “Loose cannons” –not responsible to adversaries or teammates
• What counts here: does the tactic lead to victory

Debate
• Highly polarized pro-and-con sides
• Each seeks monopoly on truth—one right, one wrong

Discussion:
• Open ended, unstructured discourse
• More chaotic and directionless than debate
• Often not inclusive: some dominate, some withdraw
• Usually no particular goal or outcome

Negotiation:
• Resolving disputes often by compromising
• Organized: All participants aligned with one or other position
• Assumes willingness to give up something in order to compromise
• Interest based negotiation working with assistance of a neutral party focuses on more collaboration, inquiry and creative option development

Counseling:
• Highly structured discourse in a circle
• Inclusive of personal perspectives in issue
• Discourages reactiveness
• Fosters attentive and empathetic listening
• Can utilize advocacy or inquiry
• Bridges from debate to dialogue

Dialogue:
• Inquiry, not advocacy
• Temporarily suspend judgments & positions to explore issues
• Acknowledge value of others’ positions
• Develops a knowledge base that exceeds any of its members
• Leads to a creative, collaborative new avenues for solving problems

In business, we often operate and make decisions based on time restraints, outside pressures, favorable or unfavorable economic conditions which effect our “talking choices” at that moment in time. Hopefully, this review will help you to make the right talking choice which can ultimately serve to develop a positive outcome of the dispute.


About Your Columnist

Michelle Burkart is a featured columnist for Women Taking Charge, the official blog of Connected Women of Influence, where she covers negotiation and conflict resolution. Currently, Michelle is the owner of TH!NKresolution, where she is a credentialed mediator; Hearing Officer for the San Diego Housing Commission; Member of the San Diego Superior Court Mediation panel as well as the NCRC Commercial Mediation Panel. Michelle manages and conducts business mediation services for TH!NKresolution to include pre-contract facilitation, contract disputes, personnel issues, conflict coaching and training, family business disputes, government agency disputes, and caregiver mediation.


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