4 simple steps that can resolve most any conflict

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A Pee Wee REP hockey team (for those not ITK this is 11 & 12 year-olds). There are high hopes for the Season. A big year for skill development – the kids are getting stronger and faster. A big year for strategy development – their attention span is improving and more complicated plays can be incorporated. Twelve kids have been chosen to represent this team. Ice time has been allocated that includes 4 - 5 on ice practices a week with several dry land sessions and games on the weekends. One of the top defenders, Ajay, also plays basketball at the Rep. level. The practice times conflict. Coach Jason is frustrated. It is not only about the missed ice times, it is about team bonding and - most importantly - learning the plays while practicing them with the lines that will be in the games. Jason tells the family to make a choice. The family say they will not choose – Ajay loves basketball and is a multi-sport athlete. NOW WHAT?


The very idea congers images of court rooms, lawyers and a formal process where one side has to give in to the other. There are all kinds of stereo-types of mediation - one of which is that only a trained expert can utilize it. Someone being paid the big bucks. This is not the case. Mediation is a simple structured process that can and should be used by anyone in a position of trying to manage a conflict. It involves two or more people coming together to talk about their issues and creatively develop a solution. 

Here is how it works. People by nature are POSITIONAL. Most of us, like Coach Jason like to find our own solutions to our own problems based on past experiences and beliefs. The problem is that along the way, we can get tunnel vision about what that solution might look like. The big downside to this way of thinking for Jason and Ajay’s parents is there is no middle ground. Ajay must either go to all of the practices to be on the team or from his parent’s perspective miss hockey practice to play basketball for the physical and emotional benefits of being a multi-sport athlete.

Child Welfare Court Facilitator, Lucinda Ferdon, explains.

“The problem is when we focus on positions there is usually no middle ground to be found – only a right and a wrong as we see it. Often the more personal the conflict, the more emotionally attached we are to our positions.”  

INTERESTS, on the other hand, are our reasons why the position is important to us and reveal our values, needs, beliefs and expectations. 


Think of an iceberg.

Positions are what we see above the surface. Interests are below.

Unfortunately, our interests become obscured in the fight for our positions and don’t necessarily reflect the core of what the conflict is about. In coach Jason’s case, he is offering an all or nothing solution for Ajay. Conversely, Ajay’s parents may not fully understand the reasoning behind Jason’s position. When addressing conflict, we need to get beneath a position to understand an individual’s needs and expectations so we can open up the possibilities that can lead to a resolution or solution.

In the case of Coach Jason and Ajay, a mediation could involve a meeting at the rink. Ajay, his parents and Jason could all attend. Mediations are best guided by a neutral third party - a facilitator like a team manager or board member could be there to help guide the process. If nobody is available, the stakeholders involved in the conflict should be perfectly able to run a process like this on their own. 

Here we get to the four simple steps involved in the process. Grab a flip chart - write it all down in categories so you are sure not to miss anything.

  1. Positions: Honestly list them.

  2. Issues: What are the problems from both perspectives?

  3. Interests: Why is it important? Try and find shared interests between both sides.

  4. Options: List as many as you can before eliminating any. No idea is a stupid idea.

The key to mediation is creativity and openness. 

Good luck! In the words of the one and only Albert Einstein…

“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

If you would like to learn more about mediation and how it can help your team or association, please get in touch. We would love to tell you more.


Nadia KybaComment