Module 3 - Be a Good Partner

Practice #5: resolving Conflicts - Step 4

Solving Conflict - Step 4: Generate a Variety of Possible Ideas Before Deciding

Step 4 involves thinking up a wide assortment of possible solutions to the conflict that can advance mutual interests and reconcile differing interests. To invent options you must be able to overcome four obstacles:

  1. Premature judgment: Avoid jumping to premature conclusions or answers about ideas until the group has developed a list of brainstormed options.

  2. Searching for the single answer: Avoid hindering the brainstorming process by becoming overly concerned about finding the "one right answer."

  3. The assumption of a fixed pie: Avoid thinking that "I can only satisfy you if my share of the pie becomes smaller."

  4. Thinking that "solving their problem is their problem": Focus on finding options/answers that appeal to everyone's self-interests.

To overcome the obstacles and invent creative options, Fisher, Ury, and Patton (1991) suggest that you:

  1. Separate inventing from deciding by conducting a brainstorming session: Search for the word brainstorming on the Internet to find processes and guides that will help you do it.

  2. Look for mutual gain: Focus on shared interests. Where differences exist, look for options that make interests compatible or even complimentary (low cost to me, high benefit to them; low cost to them, high benefit to me).

  3. Make decisions easy: Make proposals that are appealing to the other side and that are seen as legitimate by its leaders.


Ongoing example from Elizabeth's experience at Prairie Street Network Center- Idea Generation:

Together, Elizabeth and Steve brainstorm a variety of possible ideas about what she could do to help her learn and give support to the community. They both recognize that not every suggestion will be a winner, but they do not pass judgment on any of the options until they have discussed how each idea will meet both of their needs. Some of the options include things like:

  • Distributing newsletters to the community
  • Sorting mail sent by residents to the center
  • Distributing food to those in need
  • Calling numbers in the neighborhood phone book to sort out which are no longer in service
  • Helping people fill out forms for loans



If you are brainstorming as a group and writing down responses on a flip chart it is helpful to have one person facilitate the brainstorming and another person write down the answers. The person facilitating needs to be skilled at bringing everyone's voice into the process and making sure that no one individual dominates. When asking for a volunteer to record the responses, try to avoid pressuring people into volunteering. Some may not want to volunteer because of poor handwriting or spelling.



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