Conflict Resolution

Verner Smitheram from the Centre for Conflict Resolution Studies at the University of PEI was kind enough to conduct a couple of sessions with the directors of the L.M. Montgomery Land Trust over the past month.

We’re a well-tempered lot at the Land Trust, so we didn’t need the sort of full-court press conflict resolution that Verner and his team can provide. But we needed to do some long term planning, and we had a vague sense that our skills at holding meetings weren’t all they could be.

Now I’m the first personal to be a cynic about “methods” of anything — I usually prefer improvisation and anarchy if it’s an option — but I must say that Verner’s method, called “the interest-based approach to conflict resolution” has much to recommend it.

Our meetings were short, and we got a sort of “introduction lite” to the method, but we got a good taste for how it works nonetheless, and we had a much better couple of meetings than we would have otherwise.

If you’re in a situation where you’re on one side of a conflict that needs resolving, or if you just need a better way to work together as a group, and you think a disciplined approach led by a disinterested third party might help, I can think of no better group to call than Verner’s. Their website has complete details about their services and courses.


Kevin O's picture
Kevin O on April 16, 2002 - 13:55 Permalink

I once worked on a project that had taken on a bit too much bureaucratic nuance but it was nevertheless a good project and progress was being made toward the goals and aspirations of those who conceived it. After about six months a senior staff person left the project and we hired a replacement. It was plainly obvious to me that the replacement was a pretender beginning with, but most certainly not limited to, an outstandingly glaring grammar mistake on the first page of the cover letter attached to the resume; I simply felt the attention to detail was wanting especially since the position was officially a communications position.

Within hours of being hired the replacement began agitating toward “Conflict Resolution”. I saw no conflict and gave this yattering very little time. In time it became a topic of daily concern and eventually led to conflict when I simply didn’t see any conflict other than the new conflict over paying a consultant to resolve conflict that didn’t exist. Getting oxymoronic? How about just moronic?

So, to this day I get a rash when I hear people talking about conflict resolution as some sort of discipline or skill; or worse — a product one can purchase and “install” in an office. As far as I’m concerned people in conflict will resolve same on their own if they have a mutual desire to do so. Otherwise, no Verner Smitheram or Julie Devon-Dodd are going to have any success forcing cooperative attitudes. (Julie being a well known conflict resolution professional

Craig Willson's picture
Craig Willson on April 16, 2002 - 23:42 Permalink

I confess to once having a similar view to Kevin on this <strange feeling,=”” i=”” must=”” have=”” a=”” talk=”” with=”” myself=”“>. Then the kind and wise woman who shares my life found her team at work in direct and awkward conflict with two managers. It would be inappropriate to explain in detail, but it was ugly and there seemed little good will to try to sort it out.

When she told me that Smitheram was going to do a conflict resolution series to help solve the problem I, (being the caring and thoughtful person I am) suggested the process sounded a little