Breaking Up

This post does not refer to romantic relationships. Instead, it reframes the role of the discussion facilitator, the neutral dispute resolver, the problem solver. In short, achieving "break-through" (when there is impasse) can require breaking up.

It is not simply a case of the facilitator listening carefully and empathetically to each person involved in a conflict or conundrum although such attention paid is vitally important. (The listening is how we learn and model a learning attitude which can engender fresh ideas.)

The role also involves employing some strategically chosen techniques as necessary to break up log jams - be they presumptions, assumptions, prejudices - frozen, locked-in-place opinions - that thwart forward movement, that even may thwart needed forgiveness. 

It is shocking to many people (perhaps most of us) to think there is another way of viewing the world from our own view. It is equally shocking for such individuals to see themselves as narrow minded or prejudiced. It is "the other guy" who is intolerant, who is wrong, the problem, a barrier to new ideas - isn't it? These are common and honestly tended states of mind, not ill-intentioned ones. 

We neutrals cannot make persons want a result they don't want. We can't make a person see something differently or that at least there could be more than one way to view the world, the problem, the conflict. But we can try to convey the idea that there just might be more than one way of seeing the picture and that there just may be a shared interest in seeing more of the whole picture - not just one's own view of it. 

Perspective is intriguing. Think of the classic example of the sketch that some see as a rabbit and some see as a duck. Some see the sketch of a beautiful, elegantly dressed woman as a gnarled, irritable old woman. If you walk for exercise, select a landscape view or two and note its appearance. Then come at the view or an object in the view, from another location or two to see what it looks like from different angles. Sometimes, we are surprised to see it differently. Entering a room from different doors can help us notice something we completely overlooked before. 

Checking several views of the same problem can be enlightening. It is not that our perspective will be proven wrong. It is that we might become able to see a way to accommodate more of each perspective without fully surrendering our own. The log jam is sprung free and ideas can flow.  


Jeanne Franklin