#83 Questions of Exploration and Resolution: Know the Difference

Exploration-Oriented and Resolution-Oriented Questions

In the previous blog, I wrote about enhancing collaboration with low advocacy questions. In this blog, we will have a look at the exploration- and the resolution-oriented pathways of questioning.

When we ask a question in negotiation or a conflict interaction, we are frequently opening up a certain character of conversation with the other party.

Example: In what ways will our building the mine impact your fishing and hunting activity?

One can easily imagine a whole series of follow-up questions: Between hunting and fishing, which will be most impacted? How much of your diet is currently made up of food that you acquire from your traditional lands? What consequences are you most concerned about?

Note that these questions develop new understandings of the potential consequences of mine construction to a community. In asking these questions you travel an exploration-oriented pathway. You could also say that you are following an exploratory line of questioning.

On the other hand, another type of question could lead you on a pathway oriented towards resolution. Compare this next question to the one above.

Example: How could we best minimize the mine’s negative impacts on your hunting and fishing activity?

Again, one can easily imagine a series of follow-up questions: What guarantees of environmental protection would give your community confidence in the project? How many members of your community might be interested in working in the mine? How can we best stay in touch with you over the decisions that may need to be made?

Note that these questions begin to shape the components and terms of an agreement. In asking these questions, you travel a resolution-oriented pathway. You could also say that you are following a resolution-oriented line of questioning

Errors can be made in traveling the pathway of resolution prematurely or delaying it unnecessarily. Without adequate exploration, important interests of the other party will not be surfaced, and there may not be genuine understanding. On the other hand, it becomes inefficient and potentially awkward to explore more than is required to resolve differences.

Part of the art of resolving disputes is having a sense of how much understanding to develop through exploration before shifting the focus to resolution. Here is a question you can ask yourself: How deeply or thoroughly do we need to understand the issue in order to reach a good agreement or resolution?

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