In the Sign of Four, Sherlock Holmes explained to Watson that he abhorred stagnation, that he needed problems and work to feed his brain. His mental curiosity drives him seek solutions and find patterns. His curiosity enables Holmes to amass an incredible breadth and depth of knowledge. All of which assist with his famous deductions.
In conflict, curiosity is one of the greatest skills. For some people, when in conflict their natural curiosity shuts down. In its place is absolute certainty, even infallibility. In reality, we are all flawed and we are all able to contribute to a conflict or to its resolution.
Using our innate curiosity about what is driving the other person (i.e. need, fear or concern) can help to unlock possible options. In mediation, we seek out interests (the need, fear or concern) which underlie the position (i.e. the tangible, concrete demand). it can be difficult. Positions are loud and clear. Almost everyone in conflict can access their position, it usually begins with "I want...".
The reason why we have decided we want this is usually more opaque. The interest that is driving our position may be obscured by emotions including fear, anxiety or anger. It can be difficult for the other person in our conflict to determine what underlying need we are trying to meet. If we can understand our own interests and those of the other person then we can design more responsive options for resolution.
When I was studying at Pepperdine, one of my professors, Jim Craven, explained that as mediators we need to "harvest interests". Maintaining curiosity about the why of people asking for something, as well as understanding the what. Being naturally curious is a gift, it prompts further questions, it enables a deeper understanding. In conflict curiosity is a real asset.
Happy Mid-Autumn Festival. Time to take a moment and enjoy the moon.
Click below for your own PDF colouring page...
The game is afoot..to a Sherlock Holmes fan the words are instantly recognisable. Even without being a devotee it is hard to escape Sherlock, he is the most widely depicted fictional character in history and the number continues to grow (latest Henry Cavill). As a child I graduated from Nancy Drew to Sherlock Holmes with ease. Holmes may seem like an unusual topic for a blog about conflict resolution but stick with me.
Like all of us, Holmes is flawed. He is heroic and yet we can see the challenges he faces and creates for himself. He is exceptionally capable and yet can barely function in some settings.
Over the next few weeks, I will be looking at one aspect of his character and considering how this aspect can help or hinder us in conflict. It may also be that the onset of autumn makes me want to immerse myself in the stories and novels of Conan Doyle.
What is Holmes' most defining characteristic? although, I think you could make a good argument for his obsessive focus, his single-mindedness; his courage or his curiosity, for me it is his clarity of thought. From pieces of information, some seemingly irrelevant, Holmes is able to construct a picture of what is going on.
In Silver Blaze, Holmes considers the "curious incident of the dog in the night". This information is seemingly meaningless and is ignored by other characters. Holmes is able to focus on the implications of this small fact. He is able to consider the fact and then consider what this means and construct a hypothesis. He is driven by the information and then works to create meaning.
In conflict, people often work in reverse. We assign meaning to other people's behaviour and then we work backwards to seek out the words / actions which justify our assigned meaning. In this way we may feel an emotional truth and then use our rational brain to justify our beliefs. In conflict, this ability can become magnified. It can lead to entrenched views and flawed thinking. It can lead us to rationalise our negative beliefs - the other person is selfish, thoughtless, a narcissist, etc.
Leon Festinger was a pioneer in the field of cognitive dissonance. I have written in an earlier post about one of my favourite books, "Mistakes Were Made - but Not by Me". This book explores the way in which we use our cognitive powers to justify decisions we have already made. An error in thinking, of which I am sure, Holmes would steer clear.
In conflict, being more like Sherlock Holmes and working from data to theory can be more productive. Next week more Holmesian thoughts - including my favourite screen Holmes. Do you have a favourite Sherlock Holmes depiction?
It helps sometimes to be a little deaf (in marriage and in) every workplace, including the good job I have now.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the second woman on the Supreme Court and one of the most recognisable jurists in the world. As a pioneer and lawyer, she was able to use her skills and wisdom to create a legacy of equality. Critical for Justice Ginsburg, was the principle that equality for women did not mean that men would lose, rather that everyone would win.
One of her former clerks, described her as wishing to enable all to meet their human potential. As a woman and a lawyer, I, as do so many others, owe her and the women of her generation a debt of gratitude. As a mediator, I hope to honour her legacy to be a little deaf and to help all to achieve their potential.
I am delighted to have co-authored a post with Dr Monica Borschel which is available on her website LINK TO ARTICLE
This week on the Map the Maze podcast, I will be discussing child inclusive mediation the process and next week, I welcome Monica back to talk about child inclusive mediation from a psychologist's perspective.
If you are in a conflict or negotiation with someone who has a fixed and unyielding time perspective, what are some ways you can try and shift them to a more balanced time perspective? As a mediator, we are always seeking tools to help people to shift their perspective and to be in a position to consider all of the options. Based on the Zimbardo Time Perspective, below are some tools that may be useful to help someone shift appropriately to a more balanced time perspective:
What are some ways you may adapt your approach to other people in conflict or negotiation to take into account time perspective?
As with so many frameworks, there is no correct perspective, however for parties in mediation, it may be an issue to have an excessive focus on any one orientation at the expense of other orientations. In mediation, you can see how this may work in the room.
We cannot administer the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory on everyone we meet, but we can formulate a hypothesis which may assist us to support the parties in their mediation, or as a party to formulate options and proposals.
What time perspective is helpful to a party in mediation/conflict? Boniwell and Zimbardo suggest that a balanced time perspective is optimal for human functioning.
What does this mean?
A balanced time perspective is one where a person is able to shift flexibly between time perspectives depending on the task features, situational considerations and personal resources – as opposed to being biased towards a specific time perspective which is not adaptive, or even maladaptive.
In conflict, I think this means that people need to be able to accept the past has happened, be grounded in the reality of their present and be able to project into their future.
We can all think about conflict situations, where people, can appear to be cemented in the past and blame. However, much you try to shift them to a future focus they insist on returning to the past.
The challenges of this past oriented approach are apparent. Firstly it may stop some one from being able to consider options for the future and to move forward. They may continue to exist in a past negative orientation. It can easily derail a mediation or negotiation process. In extreme cases, it may antagonise the other party.
Next week, how can you help someone shift into a balanced time perspective?