Guidelines for Working Through Conflict
One of the reasons that the Collaborative Process can foster the creation of positive, healthy, and acceptable outcomes for all family members is that disputes and conflicts are viewed in a different way than they are viewed in the litigation model. Conflict creates the opportunity for creativity.
Your attorneys and your coaches will each ask questions of you and your spouse; the purpose of this is for all of the collaborative team members to build trust in each other, and to assist in a deeper understanding of all issues and themes at several levels. You are the experts in your knowledge of what has happened in the past and what is happening now, and the other team members want to learn from you.
One of the ways this can happen is by creating an environment that promotes reflection and encourages all parties to create new meanings. In order to do this, the attorneys and coaches will ask respectful questions to better understand those taken-for-granted assumptions that you and your spouse have had about each other. This is a unique opportunity to question taken-for-granted assumptions about how things are and to create a new story about how things can become. The attorneys and coaches will also help you identify and "externalize" the conflict to help you and your spouse work together on the problem and not to blame each other.
You can begin your preparation for this process by thinking about these questions:
1. What are your hopes for the Collaborative Process?
2. What conflict or problem brings you to this place? How long has this dispute been around in your lives? When did the effects of the problem first become noticeable to you?
3. What is the history of this problem doing to you? Was there a time when things were different before this problem came along and took charge?
4. What was the sequence of events that took place? When he/she did that, what did the conflict invite you to do in response? What would you call this whole cycle of events that has gone back and forth between you both? What`s a name we could agree on?
5. What has the problem done to the excitement that you both shared when you first started together? In what ways has the problem affected you and your children? Who else has been affected by this problem?
6. Has the conflict done its worst yet? Could it get worse? Which is your preference: the periods of cooperation that you two have had, or the arguing and bickering? Is this cycle of conflict one that you would like to continue or would you prefer it to stop?
Adapted from course materials from Narrative Mediation for Collaborative Practices by John Winslade and Gerald Monk