Last time I wrote about how shifting some attention to yourself can help resolve a dispute. I used the example practice of clarifying your preferred direction in life then assessing whether your engagement in a conflict is consistent with movement in the desired direction.
In this blog I will outline a potentially powerful way you can assist others to serve themselves better in the conflicts in which they find themselves. This practice is predicated on the view that conflict is meaningful and that participants have something to learn from it – including something to learn about themselves.
The practice I suggest involves assisting someone to have a mini-conversation with you about his or her inner world. Ken Cloke has called this an internalizing conversation. They could also be described as meaning-making conversations.
The questions below are entranceways to such a mini-conversation; the questions are not intended to be asked one after another in a sequence. They introduce a topic and test whether your client, peer, or friend is inclined to explore that aspect of his or her experience. If the line of enquiry begun with one question is not productive, you can switch to another topic area (in bold below).
What is your sense of direction for the next few years?
How has the direction for your life been affected by engagement in this conflict?
What are your priorities for your life at this time?
Which of your responses to the other party are supported by your values and which are not?
How could you make more use of your values in the decisions you are making?
How would you say this conflict is making you examine your values?
What are you learning about yourself in this conflict?
How has being in this conflict changed what you know about yourself?
What do you need to remember about yourself so you don’t get tripped up next time?
What does being in this conflict mean to you?
How will you interpret conflict differently from now on?
What does it mean to you that_______________ ?
How does the other party seem to view you and how does that have you reflecting on yourself?
How do you see yourself in a new light as a result of engaging in this conflict?
The purpose of an internalizing conversation is to assist people to align themselves more consistently with the person they would like to be. The person they would like to be is not necessarily the person they are; the conflict is providing an opportunity for growth and possibly transformation. Through reflection, your client, peer, or friend may make a choice to rise to a level of courage, integrity, self-responsibility, compassion, assertiveness, or other aspirational choice that he or she has not reached in the past.
My working hypothesis is that this type of internalizing conversation facilitates resolution of disputes as well as making use of the growth opportunities offered by conflict.