(framing and focusing)
It’s easy to get lost in the minutia. Helping the participants
identify the greater purpose and vision for what they are
trying to accomplish focuses on positive solutions rather than
placing blame. As mediators, we all know the importance of
stating the situation in a balanced, positive, future-focused
frame that allows for a wider range of solutions.
While working with a group of neighbors over a barking
dog, the issue, which began as an exercise in blaming and
shaming, was resolved with four questions. Where do
you live on this map of the neighborhood? Can you tell us
about your dog? What is acceptable behavior for a dog in
your neighborhood? How can we work together to help a
dog that can’t live within the acceptable norms? The last
question created a frame that moved everyone to the
same side of the table and generated 20 choices. The funny
thing was, I never found out who owned the barking dog. It
wasn’t necessary for the solution.
(virtues, principles and reciprocity)
(creativity and diversity)
What could be better than getting groups to generate
a diverse, positive and creative set of choices? In the
expansion phase, participants need to offer positive,
productive choices. They learn to recognize their own
needs and the needs of the others.
A young married couple was suffering from a small series
of aggravations. Nothing was wrong, but nothing was
really right. The mediation was stalled, and a new path was
needed. They were both asked to sit quietly for 15 minutes
and write what each was willing to do and what would
they ask the other party to consider. Ken Cloke calls these
promises and requests. When they came back and shared
their reflections, each was better able to understand the
other and didn’t feel the need to defend his or her position.
The final agreement on the flip chart was taped to their
refrigerator. True creativity sometimes takes silence.
(options and criteria)
Not only are values important in creating choices, but
they are essential for evaluation as well. Good choices
can be generated through comparison with principles
and other positive criteria, including resources, and
relationships, but evaluating those choices to find
the best one may take more time. However, once we
have generated a variety of choices we need a way to
evaluate them. We can use time, money or values as
decision criteria. For large complex issues, we can break
it down into smaller component parts. We can use the
simplest of criteria, yes, no or maybe, as a first cut. We
can then modify the maybes to move to either yes or no.
Finally we can focus on the no’s and see if we can modify
and move them to yes’s.
A Regional Planning Governing Board was made up
of elected officials from three jurisdictions. They had
been fighting in court and now faced the daunting task
of sorting through 120 principles to come up with a
unified set of planning principles for their region. The
principles were printed one per page and given to each
representative in a binder. As a group, they read each
principle and selected one of three options:
1) All agree (consensus);
2) Any one person has a question;
3) Any one person has a concern.
On the first pass, there was consensus on 90 principles. Next, the questions were answered, and 10
principles moved up to consensus, with five moving
down to concerns. Finally, the planning directors for
each jurisdiction came out and negotiated the remaining 20 concerns on the spot. Because we could see
there was consensus on 90% of the principles, agreement became inevitable. We were able to move through
a very complex and contentious issue in 60 minutes.
Having a third choice is always more empowering than
a yes or no.
In working with a group feeling the stress of having to
make a decision, the facilitator needs to help the group
identify the principles and other decision-making criteria
that are needed to understand the choices.. Everyone has a
set of principles that they live by, stated or not. Identifying
what is important to them clarifies the choices available.
A pharmaceutical company faced a difficult decision.
After the group framed the issue and generated six
positive, productive choices, the final decision was based
on the option that best aligned with company values.
Values are meant to be taken off the wall and used.