Getting to Resolution: Turning Conflict into Collaboration
By Stewart Levine
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2009
Running contrary to the stereotypical attorney, Stewart Levine provides a set of frameworks that offer a collaborative rather than adversarial approach to resolving conflict. In Getting to Resolution, Levine provides a set of techniques that can be valuable in leveraging differences to build committed relationships. His 10 principles of “resolutionary thinking” put forth a unique perspective in understanding conflict. One of the key components of his message is that combatants need to view conflict as an arena where participants can accomplish their goals by creating a partnership rather than focusing on winning at the expense of the other.
According to Levine, by considering the interests of all the parties in the conflict and agreeing to work toward common goals, a healthy, trusting relationship develops that will increase the likelihood of successful resolution. In each chapter Levine introduces cases from his law and consulting practices that assist the reader in understanding the principles of his model. At the end of each chapter he includes a summary and a set of reflections that ask the reader to apply the principles to their life. I find the reflections segment to be particularly effective. For example, in the chapter entitled, “Principal 2: Creating Partnership,” the first reflection question states, “think of a situation in which you need to create clear agreements with a collaborator.” The meaning of the principles is likely to be more fully embedded if the reader considers the reflections and writes responses to each. Not only will the reader achieve a deeper understanding of the framework, but will also be able to apply the content simultaneously.
The second framework, The Craft of Resolution, puts forth a set of action steps necessary for resolution. Perhaps the most frustrating experience when dealing with conflict is the belief that the other side does not want to cooperate. Levine takes on this challenge by suggesting that demonstrating the cost of the current situation, describing the potential benefit to all of a creative solution, along with honoring the position and personality of the other(s) may be valuable in reaching a desirable outcome.
Although the book offers valuable lessons when wrestling with conflict, I found it difficult to integrate the two frameworks. The 10 Principals of Resolutionary Thinking and the Craft of Resolution came across as 17 independent steps which, at times, led to confusion. In some cases the examples identified in the chapters appeared to reach simplistic conclusions. However, I would recommend this book particularly for those who view conflict as a win/lose battle.