The Bulletin

Strategies for Building Agreement from BIC

Thursday, March 2012

Community Resources from BIC (Building Intentional Community)

One way to look at mediating agreements is like a sculptor looking at a block of wood. The wood may seem uncompromising and formless at first, but the sculptor knows that inside the wood there is a work of art; balanced, harmonious, beautiful, waiting to come forth. It is the job of the mediator to help smooth the rough edges and chip away
at the hard feelings or intransigent blockages within those having conflict so that a fair agreement can be reached.

Here are a few tools:

  1. Separate the issues from the personalities. Although a person may complain about not liking
    someone, or find issue with a difficult personality, find out what’s behind the conflict.
  2. Separate the needs from the positions. Bringing focus to the true needs of the individuals will
    help soften a hard line position or opinion.
  3. Ask each person what they could change or do to help resolve the situation. This prevents
    blaming and empowers them to take responsibility.
  4. Develop trade-offs – “I’ll do this, if you do that.”
  5. Use "What if" questions. Once you have found a trade-off that you think may work, this can be
    one of the easiest ways of phrasing a compromise.
  6. Be the "agent of reality" speaking honestly about the consequences of actions.
  7. Remind them that it’s ok to agree to disagree. This takes the pressure off.
  8. Offer possible solutions by asking questions. “Have you ever thought about…?" Or “Sometimes in
    the past people have resolved this type of situation by…” “Do you think that would work here?"
  9. Sum things up. How could you handle this situation differently in the future?

Building agreement is like any work of art. It takes patience in the process, and trust that negotiating through conflict can bring forth healing, growth and harmony.

Submitted for Building Intentional Community by Hazel Archer-Ginsberg, BIC parent member