Module 5: Exploring Issues to Understand Interests – Introduction

The following is the Introduction to Module 5 of “Essential Skills for Engaging Conflict,”  a course that Sound Options Group developed in partnership with Oklahoma State University.  These modules are a great resource to lead your team through as you work to improve your conflict engagement skills.

Just because we can name a problem or challenge does not mean that we fully understand it.  Too often we generate solutions to problems before we have fully clarified our shared and individual objectives and needs related to the issue.

In the previous module we introduced the work of Roger Fisher and William Ury.   Their paradigm shifting book, “Getting to Yes:  Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In”, provides an elegant structure for understanding what needs to be done to fully unpack and resolve an issue.

  • When we come together to make decisions around difficult “Issues” we typically bring our “Positions” to the conversation.
  • Our Positions typically include our perspective on the issue(s) along with our preferred solution(s).
  • As stated in previous lessons, when Positions are perceived as compatible there is no problem. However, when our Positions threaten each other, we open ourselves to the “dark side” of conflict.  This is where self-awareness and choice become critical.
  • The choice is between defending our Positions or suspending judgment and seeking to understand the “Interests” driving the Positions advocated by each of us.  In this context, where a person’s Position expresses “what” they want, their underlying Interests express “why” this is important to them.
  • A wise and effective decision is not found in a compromise between our Positions but rather in a solution that meets as many of our shared and independent Interests as possible.

An essential skill for getting at these deeper interests is the ability to ask good questions.  All too often our questions at this point are focused on identifying the flaw in the other person’s thinking or looking to find a quick and easy solution to the problem.  Once again, it is not possible to generate effective solutions to a problem that we do not fully understand.  Full understanding is achieved when we can articulate our shared and individual interests.

In this module you and your team will:

  • Understand the correlation between the questions asked to the conversation experienced,
  • Learn strategies of “Intentional Inquiry” where questions are asked in service of a conversation of shared learning,
  • Differentiate different types of questions for different purposes, and
  • Practice generating powerful questions.

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