Five chairs to conflict resolution!
All too often conflict can cause problems in the workplace or home and at best it leaves an awkward atmosphere. At the other end it can cause breakdown of organisations or relationships. Here’s an idea as to avoid this.
I got myself into a potentially heated discussion the other day through a dismissive comment I made that hit a raw nerve!
After receiving a barrage of aggression, I realised how easy it is to upset someone. So what did I do? Stand and fight back, but to what end? Just to prove I was superior in the use of the English language (that’s not to say I was!), only to create the catalyst for a break down in our relationship over a petty remark?
No, I realised that I was at fault and should have refrained from using flippant remarks. The situation dispersed straight away when I put my hands up and announced “my bad, I only meant to make light of the situation”. At this point, the hypothetical inferno that could have potentially gone out of control was eliminated.
All too often, we allow simple situations to spiral with both parties wanting the upper hand. It’s not a sign of weakness to back down - more of strength, as long as you are doing it for the right reason, i.e. I was in the wrong, not to simply appease the other person.
So what happens when it’s gone beyond the niceties and there is a definite issue, with seemingly little resolve due to the fact that “I’m not in conflict, they’re simply WRONG!”
This tool is best handled with someone to arbitrate and ask the questions. It involves four chairs facing in on each side of a square and one chair to the side.
- Person one. Directly opposite is…
- Person two. The chairs on either side will be…
- The company/boss/family and opposite…
- Outsiders looking in.
The fifth chair is for person ‘two’. Observing only.
Person ‘one’ sits in chair one. Questions are asked concerning their views, reasons and thoughts behind what has started this conflict. The arbitrator’s task is to ask questions while insuring person two doesn’t interrupt.
Once person one has exhausted their thoughts, they are then asked to sit in chair two and express how they think person two feels about the situation. This is the critical stage for person two to listen and realise how their actions affect the other person.
When complete, ask them to move to chair three. How would the company/boss or family look at what it going on and eventually to chair four representing someone who could potentially be effected by this.
Once complete, the whole exercise is repeated with Person two starting off in chair two, then one, three and four and the first participant in the observation chair.
When completed, all parties are brought together having a clearer understanding of cause and effect, working to resolve issues as logic has had an opportunity to step in rather than allowing emotion to gain full control.
The physical movement between chairs is an NLP trick that triggers the brain to realise they are leaving one post behind and can see clearer in the next post.
Debate adds energy to new potential ideas. Conflict dampens the thought process and the potential of moving forward. This can be costly not just for business but the morale too.
As an arbitrator, this is where I know how to ask those incisive questions as well as managing the stage, so to speak. So if you are in conflict or have experience of conflict around you, why not try using this exercise to see where it leads.