The collaborative problem-solving approach strives to build consensus. It involves identifying the problem or issue and then engaging group members in analyzing the facts of the current situation, generating creative ideas, and agreeing on a course of action. All group members are allowed to input ideas and are encouraged to listen and build on each other’s points.
The Collaborative Conflict Management Process
The steps in the collaborative conflict management process are as follows:
- Create a clear statement of what the situation or problem is.
- Insure that all members agree with the statement.
- Help the members create a goal statement that describes what the situation would look like if the situation or problem were resolved.
- Set time limits for each step of the collaborative conflict management process.
- Make sure group norms are in place.
- Explain the collaborative process by emphasizing the need to analyze objectively before jumping to solutions.
- Make sure all group members are heard and that there’s an objective exploration of the current situation or problem.
- Use brainstorming or anonymous brainstorming to generate a range of possible solutions.
- Establish objective criteria for finding the best solution by using a decision grid.
- Make sure that the what, how, who and when are specified when developing a plan to implement the agreed upon solutions.
Compromising and Accommodating
Compromising is used when two groups have formulated strong positions. Neither group feels they can accept the position of the other, so a neutral middle ground needs to be developed.
Accommodating is appropriate in situations in which one group is only slightly interested in the problem, while the other group is deeply interested. Accommodating is focused on keeping the peace. This approach can involve asking everyone to just get along or asking one person in a conflict to give in to the others. Accommodating is the correct approach to take when investigation of the problem reveals that one person is wrong. The consequence of accommodating is that the underlying issues are often left unsolved in the interest of keeping the peace.
General Principles of Good Feedback
Following general principles of good feedback can help to foster good communication among group members.
When Giving Feedback
Tell the other person what you notice or what has happened in a factual manner. Do not comment about him or her as a person. The feedback should be descriptive rather than evaluative. The description of what has happened should be formed on facts rather than impressions. In most cases, feedback should not be imposed. Ask the other person if you can offer feedback. If the person says no, respect that the timing for feedback may not be right. Ask the person to schedule a more convenient time to talk keeping in mind that feedback should be given as soon as possible after the situation requiring feedback. Offer suggestions for improvements that the person receiving the feedback is capable of putting into practice. Make sure that your understanding is accurate and reasonable by checking with the person, or even with others. This can help avoid misjudging the situation. Show that you care about the other person by offering feedback with the intent of helping the other person.
When Receiving Feedback
Demonstrate that you are listening attentively by making eye contact with the speaker. Make sure that you understand what is being said by paraphrasing, or asking questions. Stay relaxed by taking a deep breath, relaxing your body posture, and speaking slowly. Make sure you understand the other person’s perspective before you offer your side of the story. Even if you don’t agree with the feedback, it is sure to contain some valuable ideas. By accepting these ideas, you are showing respect for the other person’s perspective. Offer your own ideas as well. Your energy should be focused on improving rather than disagreeing with observations.
The collaborative problem-solving approach helps to build respect and trust among group members. The more regularly the group meets to discuss problems or situations, the more respect and trust are built.
By Shirley J. Caruso, M.A. Human Resource Development