“How do you resolve conflict?” This is the question a friend asked me recently. I was commenting on some work I was doing in the field of conflict resolution, and he asked me, “How do you do that?” So, with this first blog post I am beginning a blog with a series of weekly posts designed to answer that question, and describe how I work with clients and help them resolve their conflicts.
My training was quite odd. A non-profit from Pennsylvania, Plowshares Institute, run by Bob and Alice Evans (no relation), came to Los Angeles in 1996 to conduct a two-year training program for a group of twenty pastors and leaders in the faith community. Plowshares Institute is an organization that focuses on peace and justice issues. (Archbishop Desmond Tutu is on the board.) The purpose of their training in Los Angeles was to teach people in the faith community conflict resolution techniques, so that we could resolve inter-ethnic disputes here in L.A.
Our class had several different teachers, but the two main ones were Randy Lowry and Peter Robinson, who were the first two Executive Directors of the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine Law School. US News & World Report has named the Straus Institute the #1 dispute resolution program in the country for several years in a row. (Harvard is number two.)
The overwhelming focus of our training was learning negotiation psychology, techniques and strategies. And because Randy Lowry and Peter Robinson are both lawyers, and also because the Straus Institute is in the Pepperdine Law School, our training was hugely informed by a very structured, legalistic model of thinking.
After I received my conflict resolution certification in 1998, I had an opportunity to serve as a volunteer mediator in the Alternative Dispute Resolution Program of the Los Angeles County Court, which I did. After a few cases I got a job offer from the Center for Conflict Resolution, which had a grant to provide mediators for the Los Angeles County Court Program. I then continued to serve with the court program as a paid mediator.
For the first few cases I did in the court program I drew on the training I got from Randy Lowry and Peter Robinson. But I felt that it was overly structured and not sufficiently responsive to the nuances of my particular cases and the people I was dealing with. I abandoned the model I was taught, and began operating very intuitively and improvizationally. Amazingly my success rate in resolving cases was quite high. So I continued this approach.
I wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing at that point. All I knew at first was that it was working extremely well, and cases were getting resolved. But after a while I began to see commonalities in my cases, and I could see what I was doing.
I realized that I was unconsciously drawing on the resources of creative thinking that I had used in an earlier career, when I was a comedy writer. (I wrote for “The Monkees” TV show among other things.)
So I began systematically developing a new kind of conflict resolution model that I call Creative Conflict Resolution® There are some simple strategies involved in this approach that draw on the resources of creative thinking. In this blog I will be sharing with readers what those simple strategies are. I will show you how I’ve used them in actual, real-life cases.
Another topic I will cover in the blog is a group of tools I’ve discovered, that work particularly well in certain kinds of common cases. These tools are powerful and effective and I use them all the time. Explaining what these tools are, and how to use them, will be one of the main topics of this blog.
Still another resource I will cover in the blog, in addition to my new overall approach, Creative Conflict Resolution®, and my knapsack of tools, is what I call “Understandings.”
“Understandings” are much more general than tools. They are just things I have come to understand about human psychology and the nature of conflict. I consider them to be very important and applicable, and I draw on them in many cases where I also use Creative Conflict Resolution® or my specific tools.
So, in the posts for this upcoming blog, I will be explaining my overall approach to creative conflict resolution, some of the tools I use, in addition to the understandings that I draw on. Typically, each blog post with be concerned with a single tool or understanding. All the things I will be sharing in the blog are ones that I have actually used, and continue to use, in real cases. And they work!
So I return to the original question that people have asked me: “How do you resolve conflict?” This blog is designed to answer that question.
Welcome to the blog!
© David Evans