Over the past few weeks, the issue of civility and respect has been raised by the inmates and has been a prime topic of discussion amongst the bored members. All too often, we are asked to take sides and choose who is right or wrong in these conflicts when most often there is no right or wrong, just varying degress of wrongness and incivility. We then find ourselves spending a great deal of time mediating these disputes with one or both parties often without mutual agreement between the parties and without ultimately resolving the issues. These unresolved differences often then lead to recurring conflicts.
Therefore, the management has adopted a new policy. The policy stems from a desire to remove the Bored from being in the position of frequently making the decisions related to the inter-personal conflicts that arise on the various wards.
There is, perhaps, nothing more common than conflict. Constructively viewed, conflict can be seen as resulting from
- varied perspectives on the situation;
- differing belief systems and values resulting from participant's accumulated life experience and conditioning; and
- differing objectives and interests.
It is no accident that we most often find ourselves in conflict with those with whom we spend the most time - family, friends, business associates, and fellow inmates. In terms of overall life quality, there is a great benefit in being able to constructively resolve conflict with those around us.
The Bored is not the keeper of the inmates; rather, it is the keeper of the following mission and values:
To promote a healthy and vibrant learning community.
- Be open to participation from all who wish to learn and be helpful.
- Appreciate diverse opinions and those who share them respectfully.
The policy shall be known as KFHAAA" the "Keeping the Fun and Harmony at AA alive" policy. The goals are to remove the burden of mediating disputes between inmates from the Bored and put the responsibility for playing well with others where it belongs. There are simply too many patients and too little time for us to hear out each and every case. There are also issues of friendship between members of the Bored and certain inmates than can cloud an effective mediation. Consequently, we have chosen to turn the issue back to those to whom it belongs: the disputants themselves.
If you think about it, it is through conflict we have the chance to be creatively self-defining. If nothing else, conflict allows us to do things differently in the future. Through the resolution of conflict, we can, if we choose, evolve and redefine ourselves, our relationships, our community, our society and our world.
It works like this:
When two inmates (registered or otherwise) choose to engage in what the Bored perceives to be a counterproductive (remember that conflicts can be good for all concerned - when managed well) and escalating conflict they will be given a "time out" from participation at the Asylum.
During the "time out," (which will last as long as it takes to get things sorted through between the respective parties) it is the responsibility of the disputants to engage in face-to-face, phone or e-mail exchanges that lead to a written agreement about how they will respectfully co-exist on any and all of the various wards in our institution. Upon request, the disputants will be mailed a "self-mediation guide," which they may choose to use in structuring the proceedings or discard.
In any event the agreement:
- does not (in most cases) come in the form of an apology from one inmate to another.
- cannot be the result of one inmate coercing another.
- does not drag up the past or place blame.
- does not necessarily resolve tensions between parties. The resolution may just align matters enough to allow each participant to make enough progress toward his or her desired ends to prefer declaring there to be a "a state of agreement" rather than the uncertain and stressful "state of disagreement."
- does represent a convergence of means (or arrangements for the future), not necessarily participants' interests or perspectives. Participants will commonly come to support the same arrangement or agreement for very different reasons.
- must indicate, in a clear and behaviorally-measurable manner, what the disputants will do to avoid future, non-productive conflicts.
- must also indicate a clear understanding among the disputants of what will happen if either of them violate the terms agreed upon. Failure to attend to the latter aspects of the agreement will leave the Bored no recourse other than an immediate ban for the disputant in violation.
Each inmate's interests, positive intentions and desired outcomes must be explored in an effort to solve the problems in a maximizing way. Participants are expected to modify and develop their original views as the agreement develops.
The written agreement shall be mailed to the Bored and reviewed. If the Bored finds the agreement workable, the disputants shall be allowed to post again. The agreement does not have to look like a love/hug-fest. It must, however, clearly define the behaviors the disputants agree to engage in order to avoid future conflicts. Violations of such agreements will be deemed cause for another "time-out," the duration of which shall be determined by the Bored.
Note: If any disputant is determined by the Bored to not be participating in a "good faith manner to keep the fun and harmony at AA alive," that inmate will continue to be restricted from posting at the Asylum. It will then be incumbent upon the inmate(s) acting in good faith disputant to reach an agreement with the Bored about the terms of reinstatement to post in an unencumbered fashion at the Asylum. All decisions of the Bored are final.
This post will be closed to follow-ups. In the decision-making hierarchy, this is an autocratic decision, in that it is not consultative or open to public discussion. Any threads which develop in the next 48 hours to address the new policy will be removed. Those inmates wishing to provide input on the policy may do so through the comment feature at the bottom of the post box. All comments delivered via e-mail through the comment feature will be taken into consideration We do welcome your ideas and comments, but will not entertain a wholesale debate of the decision at this time.
For those of you interested, below is a brief representation of types of conflicts and approaches to managing them.
TYPES OF CONFLICT
Indicated by the presence of strong negative emotions, misperceptions or stereotypes, poor communication or miscommunication, or repetitive negative behaviors. Relationship problems generally fuel disputes and lead to an unnecessary escalating spiral of destructive conflict. Supporting the safe and balanced expression of perspectives and emotions for acknowledgment (not agreement) is one effective approach to managing relational conflict.
Data conflicts occur when people lack information necessary to make wise decisions, are misinformed, disagree on which data is relevant, interpret information differently, or have competing assessment procedures. Some data conflicts may be unnecessary since they are caused by poor communication between the people in conflict. Other data conflicts may be genuine incompatibilities associated with data collection, interpretation or communication.
Interest conflicts are caused by competition over perceived incompatible needs. Conflicts of interest result when one or more of the parties believe that in order to satisfy his or her needs, the needs and interests of an opponent must be sacrificed. Interest-based conflict will commonly be expressed in positional terms. A variety of interests and intentions underlie and motivate positions in negotiation and must be addressed for maximized resolution. Interest-based conflicts may occur over substantive issues (such as money, physical resources, time, etc.); procedural issues (the way the dispute is to be resolved); and psychological issues (perceptions of trust, fairness, desire for participation, respect, etc.). For an interest-based dispute to be resolved, parties must be assisted to define and express their individual interests so that all of these interests may be jointly addressed. Interest-based conflict is best resolved through the maximizing integration of the parties' respective interests, positive intentions and desired experiential outcomes.
Structural conflicts are caused by forces external to the people in dispute. Limited physical resources or authority, geographic constraints (distance or proximity), time (too little or too much), organizational changes, and so forth can make structural conflict seem like a crisis. It can be helpful to assist parties in conflict to appreciate the external forces and constraints bearing upon them. Structural conflicts will often have structural solutions. Parties' appreciation that a conflict has an external source can have the effect of them coming to jointly address the imposed difficulties.
Value conflicts are caused by perceived or actual incompatible belief systems. Values are beliefs that people use to give meaning to their lives. Values explain what is "good" or "bad," "right" or "wrong," "just" or "unjust." Differing values need not cause conflict. People can live together in harmony with different value systems. Value disputes arise only when people attempt to force one set of values on others or lay claim to exclusive value systems that do not allow for divergent beliefs. It is of no use to try to change value and belief systems during relatively short and strategic mediation interventions. It can, however, be helpful to support each participant's expression of their values and beliefs for acknowledgment by the other party.
WAYS OF DEALING WITH CONFLICT
There are five common ways of dealing with conflict. Learning about the alternative means of handling conflict gives us a wider choice of actions to employ in any given situation and makes us better able to tailor our responses to the situation. They are listed below in order of increasing elegance.
Denial or Withdrawal
With this approach, a person attempts to get rid of conflict by denying that it exists. He or she simply refuses to acknowledge it. Usually, however, the conflict does not go away. It grows to the point that it becomes unmanageable. When the issue and the timing are not critical, denial may be a productive way to deal with conflict.
Suppression or Smoothing Over
A person using suppression plays down differences and does not recognize the positive aspects of handling the conflict openly. The source of the conflict rarely goes away. Suppression may, however, be employed when it is more important to preserve a relationship than to deal with a relatively insignificant issue.
Power or Dominance
Power is often used to settle differences. Power may be vested in one's authority or position. Power may take the form of a majority (as in voting) or a persuasive minority. Power strategies result in winners and losers. The losers do not support a final decision in the same way the winners do. Future meetings of a group may be marred by the conscious or unconscious renewal of the struggle previously "settled" by the use of power. In some instances, especially where other forms of handling conflict are not effective, power strategies may be necessary.
Compromise or Negotiation
Although regarded as a virtue, compromise ("you give a little, I'll give a little, and we'll meet each other half-way") has some serious drawbacks. Such bargaining often causes both sides to assume initial inflated positions, since they are aware that they are going to have to "give a little" and want to buffer the loss. The compromise solution may be watered down or weakened to the point where it will not be effective. There may be little real commitment by any of the parties. Still, there are times when compromise makes sense, such as when resources are limited or a speedy decision needs to be made.
This approach suggests that all parties to the conflict recognize the interests and abilities of the others. Each individual's interests, positive intentions and desired outcomes are thoroughly explored in an effort to solve the problems in a maximizing way. Participants are expected to modify and develop their original views as work progresses.
Participants come to appreciate that the apparent presenting problem does not need to limit their discussions. Participants are encouraged to express the full breadth and depth of their interests, with each participant seeking to identify "value" that they can bring to the discussion and the maximized satisfaction of underlying interests and intentions.
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Topic - New Asylum Conflict Resolution Policy (long) - Rod M 07:03:10 08/29/01 (0)
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