“A rising tide lifts all boats,” said John F. Kennedy.
We’re all uplifted when the currents are flowing in the same direction and people are doing swimmingly and getting along.
But when we’re swimming against each other, rip tides of consternation, conflict, and even calamity can happen.
And to make matters worse, just when we need to keep an open mind and be creative in our conflict resolution, our perspective tends to narrow.
We get binary.
Right vrs wrong. Black vrs white. You vrs me. Yes vrs no.
No one wins.
When we’re in conflict we tend to barge ahead with attempting resolution without taking time to think about alternatives, including assumptions we might be making. Without taking care, we can sink deeper into that riptide.
There’s hope, however.
The next time you’re in danger of getting swept away by an unforeseen riptide try my simple conflict resolution tool to help everyone R.I.S.E.
Each letter stands for a different focus on effecting change and resolution.
These four different focus areas help you come up with new ideas for how to resolve the conflict.
Let’s dive in, so you can R.I.S.E.
R → Revolution
Revolutions are change efforts that are big, bold, and obvious. They’re dramatic and noticeable. The goal is immediate change.
I → Individual
Individual refers to change efforts focused on, you guessed it, the individual. They’re things that you, me, and/or a small group of individuals can do. They’re strategies that we as individuals do have agency or control over.
S → Structural
Structural are those change efforts aimed at the “system.” The system can be policies, laws, procedures, norms, legal frameworks, issues of governance, culture, etc. They’re things that we as individuals tend to not have immediate agency or control over.
E → Evolution
Evolutions are change efforts that are small, subtle, and not necessarily immediately obvious. The goal is to change over the long term.
Each of the focuses can be put on one of two different continuums (like in the image above).
Revolution <– –> Evolution
Individual <– –> Structural
When you put them together they form a helpful quadrant, designed to assist you with brainstorming options.
I taught this tool in a two-day negotiation training with UN staff in Mogadishu, Somalia recently. We used popsicle sticks that I’d put the individual R.I.S.E. letters on, laid over paper. Folks then filled in the quadrants with ideas for how to move forward with the example conflict they’d brought with them.
Ignore that voice that may pop up in your head. The one that says “That’ll never work,” “We tried that before,” “That’ll take too long,” “That will cost too much,” etc. At this stage, you’re simply brainstorming. You won’t put every single idea into action. Don’t diss yourself and your ideas, otherwise, you’re likely to stall the process.
Now go ahead with your own example. Take a piece of paper and draw out the two continuums then brainstorm to your heart’s delight in each quadrant.
You should end up with four different areas to brainstorm, each with ideas for moving the conflict resolution along, like the examples below:
Revolution + Structural = big bold changes aimed at the system
- e.g. going on strike, organizing a protest march, starting a social media campaign
Structural + Evolution = subtle changes aimed at the system
- e.g. doing some research into organizational policy that is related to the issue you’re dealing with, holding some informational interviews, doing a survey
Evolution + Individual = subtle changes aimed at the individual
- e.g. reading a book related to the topic you’re focused on, getting some coaching and/or mentoring, journaling
Individual + Revolution = big bold changes aimed at the individual
- e.g. doing a Master’s degree, changing jobs, moving
Now that you know what each letter stands for, with a little focus, you should come up with a bunch of new conflict resolution ideas by brainstorming each quadrant. You’ll get out of binary thinking and be able to see possibilities previously hidden. And in doing that you’ll get closer to a resolution.
And that, dear reader, will help all of us R.I.S.E.
Now go on and learn, learn some more, and lead
- Don’t get stuck going round and round in circles, on mindless autopilot when it comes to resolving conflict. Unlike this hilarious dog. Do you think he’s dizzy yet?
- Apply the technique to a conflict you’re facing. Be bold. Be brave. And R.I.S.E.
P.S. Let’s stay connected. Free weekly coaching by email on how to use humanity and humour to problem solve, right here.