#9 Five Questions that Test Your Ability to Be Collaborative


Collaboration can be described as a style of conflict engagement that seeks cooperation with the other party and strives to generate outcomes that benefit both parties in a maximum and balanced manner.


Here is one of the frequent challenges presented by a conflict. How much do you compete with the other party trying to maximize the benefit to yourself, versus how much do you collaborate and work with him or her for your mutual benefit.


I have developed a set of questions that I think help to surface unconscious or semi-conscious attitudes relevant to collaboration.


Where do you stand in relation to the questions below?


1. How do you view a challenging relationship with another person?


If you believe that a challenging relationship is an important milestone to be met and learned from in a full manner, such a believe will motivate you to keep working at resolution even under demanding circumstances. Turning against someone else, would be a last resort strategy.


But, on the other hand, if you believe that relationships are chosen based on positive benefits, then you are less likely to be concerned about a relationship in an irksome conflict. You would be more likely to turn against someone else.


Collaboration does not require friendship. It does require a constructive working alliance.


2. After someone is hurt, criminally or otherwise, how do you determine if justice has occurred?


In conflict belief about justice is often reflected in expressions of who is wrong (the other party) with the implication that you are right. As Gary Harper has written, parties tend to scramble for the higher moral ground. They also generate logical explanations that hold the other party largely accountable for what happened. Black and white.


However, alternative views are available. Disputants have frequently been through a complex interactional sequence in which each has contributed to the negative outcomes they experience (whether one if more accountable than the other or not). Frequently, at various junctures each has occasionally behaved in a manner that is questionable. Furthermore, both are often subject to influences beyond their control.


Worldviews that appreciate the complexity of justice and the value of participating in how justice is carried are supportive of collaborative capacities under challenging circumstances. I find that disputants need each other’s stories in order to assemble productive understandings of their conflicts.


3. How abundant is the universe and does it care for us?


Consider the amount of spousal support to be paid in the case of a marital separation. Legal counsel may agree that the courts would likely award  $1,500 to $2,000 a month. The parties and legal counsel are left struggling to find a figure in that range if they wish to avoid a trial.


People may vary widely in their attitude to where and how they acquire support in life; for example,  ‘whatever happens I will be OK. I will manage because I always have,’ versus, ‘I need $2,000 a month from my former spouse, otherwise I will not be OK.’ Viewing the general environment as abundant and rich in a variety of sources of support will make it easier to settle. The receiver will feel more self sufficient and less in need. The payer will feel relaxed about generating and budgeting for the monthly disbursements.


4. How potent are human creativity, intelligence and imagination in solving problems?


Conflicts present people with problems; for example, how much is owed by a contractor for a poor job? Or, how can we work better together on this team? If you have unconscious views that find people potent in solving problems, you are more likely to have endurance in a challenging interaction; for example, this is a difference we can resolve if we keep working on it.


5. Are people generally good, bad, or neutral?


When bad behaviour is equated with a bad person, constructive attitudes are difficult to maintain. On the other hand if one believes that others are good at the core, it is easier to view behaviour as misguided rather than malicious. It is more likely that you will try to see a positive slant to another’s viewpoint when we are immersed in differences.


How did you respond to the questions? Let me know.


The value and benefit of collaboration as the preferred style of conflict engagement in most situations is widely acknowledged amongst many dispute resolution professionals. However, it is clearly evident that when faced with the challenges of a stressful, confusing, painful, or bitter conflict, parties tend to revert or gravitate to one of the less ideal and less beneficial styles of conflict engagement.


When it comes to collaborative engagement in conflict, people require an inner foundation (worldview) that will sustain them through the challenges.


I hope that I have given you some food for thought.


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