If the conflict fits.....
I love sewing! It is in my secret talent box next to gardening, flowers, embroidery and being really good with babies! However, I also love the possibility of transforming conflict and often look for the overlap of processes between my private passions and professional persona.
While I was cutting fabric recently, I was thinking about the care with which I construct garment to fit perfectly and the path of conflict transformation.
Most important for both is to have the end product in mind! What do you want it to look like? How patient and meticulous will you be while constructing it? How do the different parts fit together? Do you add frills or do you take away pockets? Are you respecting the fabric and the process? How comfortably will it fit? How long will it last?
Those of you who know a little about garment construction will know that a pattern can be a very tricky thing to navigate and figure out. You can’t expect a size 10 dress if you cut on the size 8 lines! (You should of course, have listened to those in the know who said, trace your size, don’t cut it because you might want to use a different size later…) And there are many, many lines and dots and darts and instructions written sideways!
Of course there is the fabric. You can’t take chiffon and make a tailored suit! Doesn’t hang well. Same goes for a tweed bikini. You are welcome to picture this...
Preparing and conducting a conflict transformation session or mediation is similar.
Actually, much more difficult because you can’t choose your raw material. You cant put it down when you get tired or frustrated and you can't throw it in the bin if it doesn't fit! You can't choose the nature of the conflict that comes to you, or the history of the people involved or the granularity and complexity of their emotional buttons and expectations, nor the strings of influence and impact of seemingly tangential matters.
However, you can choose the best pattern, process and intended outcome for the raw materials you are handed. You are always in charge of the enthusiasm with which you approach the task at hand and bring yourself to the room. You hold the space. You guide the flow, the genuine care for the parties and responsibility to help them construct a new possibility of being.
Next time you have to reconstruct some conflict think about:
What is the outcome that you really want to achieve?
What is the true size of the conflict?
a. Are you making it bigger than what it needs to be?
b. Are you minimizing issues that are actually important to you, simply to keep the peace?
Are you trying to force a fit or are you open to alternatives?
How close or far apart are you and the other party’s final product? (No use if one of you is making a suit and the other a frilly skirt.)
Are you treating the other party with respect, even though you feel frustrated, tired and irritated?
Do you want a quick fix (t-shirt) or are you creating a process, an outcome and mutual respect that will stand the test of time (designer gown)?