Transforming Conflict

by Dr. Richard Bolstad and Margot Hamblett

 

If Only People Knew How To Keep In Rapport With Me

We believe that one of the gaps within the NLP model is that in a field which has so many insights to offer about conflict resolution, there is not yet an agreed on methodology able to be used to resolve conflicts both within and outside of the NLP community. There's no agreed "NLP" way of acting when two of us have an argument. Creating such a methodology is the one thing we most wish we could gift to the NLP Community.

Of course, there are some nominalisations that are agreed on; probably most NLP Practitioners believe that rapport is important in a conflict, as is an outcome frame. But even some of the original presuppositions of NLP are not accepted by leading NLP trainers. And when a conflict occurs between NLP Practitioners, the easiest response is to explain that the other person lacks certain nominalisations ("They don't keep rapport with me", "They have a blame frame" etc ). The challenge of conflict resolution is not merely to keep rapport with those who keep rapport with you; it is to keep rapport with those who break it. As Jesus pointed out, even the most rigid conservatives love those who love them. The challenge is how to love those who act as your enemies; to develop a set of responses which continues to be the most effective possible even when the other party stops using it. One of the original models for NLP, Virginia Satir sums up her book Peoplemaking (Satir, 1972, p303-304) by emphasising "I think we may be seeing the beginning of the end of people relating to each other through force, dictatorship, obedience and stereotypes.... It is a question of whether the old attitudes will die and new ones be born or that civilisation dies out. I am working on the side of keeping civilisation going with new values about human beings. I hope that now you are, too." We believe NLP has yet to fully answer her challenge.

This requires more than a new, improved nominalisation for conflict resolution. It requires a methodology. The presuppositions of NLP are an ideological basis for an effective methodology of conflict resolution, but I believe that they have not been adequately specified in behavioural terms. It's as if we had the theory of wellformedness for linguistics, but not the metamodel to actualise it. So when we get into difficulty, we know how to say that the other person is not behaving in a wellformed way, but we don't know precisely how to challenge it.

 

Confusing Origins in NLP

Perhaps the closest to an agreed on NLP conflict resolution methodology is given in the early NLP book, Reframing. There, an Agreement Frame exercise is described as: (1982, p162)

1. Ask A and B what, specifically, they want, and then restate it to their satisfaction as a pace.

2. Ask both A and B what their specific outcome will do for them (their meta-outcome) and restate it.

3. Find a common outcome such that when you state it, both A and B agree it is what they want.

Bandler and Grinder note (1982, p 147) "When you use this format you assume that people want to communicate in such a way that they get what they want, and that they want to respect the integrity and the interests of the other people involved. That assumption may not be true, but its a very useful operating assumption, because it gives you something to do that can be very effective. If you make that assumption, its always possibleto find another solution -not a compromise- that satisfies both parties." Unfortunately, a few pages later (1982, p163), the book talks from a totally opposite model, assuming the need to compromise "I will insist that the outcome frame contain what both sides should have put there to begin with: items which are not essential, which are "throwaways" for the purpose of barter. I've got to have an equal amount of those on both sides." Which is the "real" NLP approach? It seems there isn't one.

The problem the two of us have with conflicts within the NLP community is that with no agreed on sensory specific behaviours, each person is able to dismiss each of their adversaries as not living up to the "real" NLP way. The end result is that the collective behaviour of all of us is itself, by default, a demonstration of a lack within NLP. With no specific criteria, it won't do to claim that Bandler or Grinder or XYZ does not embody the "real" NLP. As Karl Marx pointed out, a theory can be evaluated by its results, rather than by it's promised results (by which method Marxism itself can now be evaluated rather less glowingly). In NLP terms, the meaning of communication is the response you get.

 

Effectiveness Training: A Methodology That Works

We would like to give you an example of what we mean by a methodology. We are trainers of instructors for Gordon Training International, an organisation teaching a win-win conflict resolution model called Effectiveness Training in 37 countries. Outside of the Effectiveness Training organisations, their methodology has been well researched. Pehr Gyllenhammar, president of the Volvo corporation, reported that its use by managers in their Swedish plant resulted in absenteeism dropping by 50%, employee turnover being cut to 25% of previous levels and quality of product improving. (Gordon, 1978, p 1-4). In a two year study of its use by teachers in Virginia state schools, it produced results such as a 90% reduction in school discipline problems. Robert Cedar of Boston University reviewed 26 separate research studies on its use in parenting showing that it is significantly more successful than all other models of parenting studied, especially for increasing childrens self esteem and co- operativeness.(Effectiveness Training Newsletter, 1995)

Effectiveness Training courses have been running for 30 years (at least as long as NLP) and over that time there have of course been conflicts between the actual promotors of the courses. As the New Zealand representatives, we have witnessed two conflicts between instructors in New Zealand and organisers in the United States of America. What has impressed us each time is that the methodology of the courses immediately provided a map for each participant in the conflict to use, in order to choose responses which were both successful and consistent with the actual model. In particular, the behaviour of the originators of the course could be evaluated with precision against this map. They walked their talk, and their talk was specific enough so that an observer could see that they were walking it. Had they failed to follow the map, their behaviour could be immediately identified as inconsistent with it, and thus not a result of Effectiveness Training.

Our intention in this article is to model Effectiveness Training using NLP terminology. This gives an example of the kind of conflict resolution methodology we would like to encourage within the NLP community. It does not give "the solution" to fill what we perceive as a gap in the NLP model. Rather, it gives a useful contrast frame to consider the merits and challenges associated with our looseness in NLP about this area (as opposed to our clarity about, say, the Metamodel). Specifically, we want to model the skills of Thomas Gordon, principal developer of the Effectiveness model.

 

Thomas Gordon

Thomas Gordon says that his career as an advocate of conflict resolution began during the Second World War. He was a trainer of Army Air Corp flight instructors at Montgomery, Alabama. At that time, Army Air Corp instructors had an authoritarian style of teaching that Gordon says "usually instilled so much fear and tension that students didn't perform well." (Gordon, 1995, p315). Having been a graduate student and friend of counselling developer Dr Carl Rogers, Gordon believed that a more accepting approach would be more successful. He set training goals with this in mind, assigned other trainers their tasks in line with these, and evaluated their progress. He says "To my surprise and puzzlement, within a few months morale was bad, resistance was high, production was low, creativity was nil, and open and honest communication ceased between the group members and me." Ironically, while his intentions and the content of his changes had been co-operative, the process he had used to impliment change had been authoritarian. In response, after being confronted by a friend, he began to develop a totally different model for his work. "This changed leadership style had startling and enduring effects: creativity flourished, communication opened up, tension decreased, and the work became enjoyable and satisfying to all of us."

After the war, Gordon went back to graduate studies and began to write a book about his learnings (Gordon, 1955). This gained him a job with a large industrial company in Davenport Iowa. When they adopted his model in their factory, again "Cooperation increased, morale shot up, and the foremen were happier, worked harder, and were more creative. Productivity increased." The book catapulted Gordon into a career as a consultant and therapist, but he continued to feel that his work was remedial, and what was really needed was an intervention at an earlier stage in social events. In the late 1950s he hit on the idea of designing a leadership training program for parents. This course (Parent Effectiveness Training or PET) was the first of a number of specific packages of this training designed for salespeople, women, young people, teachers, clergy and others.

 

An Overview

A series of language patterns connected by three very simple decision points form the core of Gordon's model. The seven key language patterns taught in his books have become common knowledge in conflict resolution circles (passive listening, door openers, active listening, I messages, 6 step problem solving, consulting and modelling). However, the three breakthroughs which enable these patterns to be selected and combined for any particular situation are unique to the Effectiveness Training model, and essential to what I'm calling a "Methodology".

Here we will present these three concepts in an NLP framework, and show how they transform random "communication skills" into a powerful strategy for creating and sustaining successful relationships. In doing so we'll briefly describe the seven language patterns. Finally we'll suggest some implications for all of us as NLP Practitioners.

The three concepts are:

1. The Problem Ownership Model, a system which eliminates lost performatives in order to identify the most useful starting point for using communication skills.

2. Shifting Gears, a system for shifting focus linguistically between first position and second position in order to use communication skills more systemically (respecting that communication involves a self-other system, rather than a linear drive to "get what I want").

    3. Conflict Differentiation, a system for identifying and selecting skills based on the neurological level of a conflict.

     

    Problem Ownership

    To begin using the methodology of Effectiveness Training in any relationship situation, one simply checks whether at this moment ones own present internal state is desired or not (a "problem", as Dilts notes in Dilts, 1993, p193, is any distance between present state and desired state). One then steps into second position and checks whether the other person's internal state is desired by them or not. There are four possible results to these checks (Gordon, 1974, p38-39):

    1. Neither of us owns a Problem. If both states are desired, then no problem exists, and the focus of communication can be towards individual and mutual enjoyment. In the situation where neither of us owns a problem, a larger range of language patterns will be safe to use (safe in the sense of preserving both of our self esteem, and preserving the relationship). This area offers the most potential for us to grow personally, as each of us has energy free from problem-solving to focus on our goals and on discovery.

    One of the people is in an undesired state, then they "own a problem" in Thomas Gordon's terms. This does not mean that they are "at fault" or "should" change something, concepts which are understood not to be wellformed both in NLP and in Effectiveness Training. It simply means that they are not in their desired state. Possible results 2), 3), and 4) relate to this situation.

    2. The other person owns a problem. If I am in a relationship where at this moment I feel okay, and the other person does not (ie they are in an undesired or "problem" state), it can be useful to focus my attention on assisting them to reach their desired state. This process, called Helping, is of course a common one when you are an NLP Practitioner assisting a client to change. It also occurs when you are listening to your spouse talking about a difficult day, or when you offer to assist your co-worker to learn how to perform a new work task. The most effective skills for Helping will be ones that linguistically identify the problem space and the desired state as existing inside the other person's experience (I will say, for example, "So what you want to change is..." rather than "So what I think you should change is..."). In Effectiveness Training, these skills include:

    * passive listening (the equivalent of NLP rapport skills),

    * door openers (open questions which are a gentle equivalent of the NLP Metamodel challenges),

    * active listening (the equivalent of NLP's verbal pacing).

    These skills avoid patronising the person by suggesting what they "should" aim for, "should" feel and "should" be able to cope with. If assertive skills were used in the helping area they would come across as overbearing and controlling (a response which sometimes occurs when someone does an assertiveness training course, and with the hammer of assertion assumes that every problem is a nail to be driven in) (Gordon, 1974, p61-75).

    3. I own a problem. If I am in a relationship where at this moment the other person feels okay, and I do not (i.e., I am in an undesired or "problem" state), it can be useful to focus my attention on finding a way for me to reach my desired state. This process could be called Problem Solving. As we know in NLP, people own a problem in response to particular internal representations. If the representations related to my problem state are about the other person (if I'm upset or angry or hurt "about something they did", for example) then this process of problem solving is called Assertion. For example, I own a problem where I'm frustrated about my spouse's failure to wash the dishes, or where I'm resentful that I ended up doing extra work when my co-worker didn't attend a meeting. I also own a problem at times when a client forgets to turn up to a session. The most effective skill for Assertion will be one that linguistically identifies the problem space and the desired state as existing inside my own experience ("What I want to change is..." rather than "So what you might want to do is..."). In Effectiveness training, this skill is called an "I message" (Gordon, 1974, 139-145). In a conflict, a clear I message identifies:

    * the sensory specific behaviour that is the subject of the concern,

    * the internal state (emotion) which I have generated in response to this behaviour,

    * any sensory specific effects on me of that behaviour.

    An example of the linguistic format for an I message would be "When...[sensory specific behaviour], I feel...[congruent description of my internal state] and the effect on me is... [sensory specific effects of the behaviour]". This structure avoids insulting or blaming the other person, and avoids patronising them by telling them what they "should" do. By not suggesting one specific solution, it leaves the process of generating solutions until the other person's sitiuation has been heard and can be taken into account (as in examples below). Helping skills by themselves will be ineffective in the area where I own a problem, suggesting to the other person that it's up to them what solution is reached. (a response which sometimes occurs when someone does counselling training and sees the other as a "client" even when the other doesn't "own a problem").

      4. We both own a problem. This situation implies that some combination of linguistic skills will be useful (So what you want is... and what I want is...). Where we both own a problem in response to related internal representations, then this situation is, in Effectiveness Training terms, a "Conflict". This doesn't mean that we are neccessarily opposed to each other, or that one of us must win and one lose. It simply means that we both are upset, angry, hurt etc about related issues (eg I think we should spend more time together and the other person wants more space. I want to use the company car tomorrow and so does my coworker) Such situations benefit from a combination of the helping and assertive skills, as well as from specific conflict resolution skills (including in Effectiveness Training the 6 Step problem solving process, consulting and modelling).

       

      Shifting Gears

      The situation would be very easy if problem ownership stayed constant throughout any conversation. If this was the case, in the "no-problem" situation, a conversation would involve simply exploring positive states and outcomes together. In the "other owns a problem" situation, a conversation would involve simply pacing the other person's dilemna, assisting the other person to clarify what their outcome is, and guiding them through processes to assist change towards that. In the "I own a problem" situation, a conversation would involve simply asserting my position and identifying the changes I want.

      In real life, it is more useful if I continuously monitor the changing internal states of myself and the other person, and adjust my language use to best represent the shifts of problem ownership, many of which are of course a result of my own previous communications. For example, in the midst of helping a client solve his problem, I may discover that I myself am uncomfortable with the way he insists that I listen to his complaints about what goes wrong, and does not shift to an outcome (solution focused) frame. From using Helping skills ("So for you the problem is..." and "So what you want is...") I would then shift to using Assertive skills ("One thing I'm finding frustrating about the way you're talking is..." and "I'd find it easier to help if...").

      Most particularly, once I have used an Assertive skill, the most common outcome is for the other person to shift into the problem state themselves (to feel uncomfortable in response to my communication). When a person hears my I message "I resented the way you didn't get that report to me on time as we'd arranged. It involved me in a lot of extra work" it is rare for them to respond with congruent joy and enthusiasm to improve next time. If you think of times when someone has, however skilfully, asserted themselves with you in this way, you'll notice that you're more likely to experience feelings of embarassment, discomfort, hurt, annoyance, and mismatching responses. That is to say, you're more likely to own a problem about the message, and possibly about the issue.

      If I've used an I message (Assertion skill) and the other person owns a problem about that, the next step to getting my problem solved will be to shift back from Assertion, and help them solve their own problem. To do this, I simply use active listening (a Helping language pattern), to pace their concern (eg "You think I'm over-reacting...". As NLP points out, there is no resistance, only a lack of rapport. Once the other person feels fully heard in their own problem state (evidenced usually by a nod of the head), then it becomes possible to restate my I message taking into account their comment. As they have now been heard, their "emotional temperature" is reduced, and they are more able to hear my concern and respond positively to it. The use of a "broken record" style "assertiveness", where one simply repeats one's I message like a broken record, is simply an example of failure to monitor the ongoing problem ownership situation. It is ineffective to restate my I message until the other person indicates (with a nod or verbal agreement) that I have accurately paced their situation.

      The process of resolving such a situation by alternating between I messages and active listening is called shifting gears in Effectiveness Training (Gordon, 1974, p145-147). Here's how it might sound in practice, in a discussion where Joan is using the model in a concern with her work colleague, Frank (notice that if Frank knew the model, the process would be even more fluent, but Joan can use the model regardless of this):

      Joan: Frank, I have a problem I'd like to discuss. You handed in a report to the Director yesterday and suggested that new filing system I had recommended to you last week. I see reading the report that you've described it as a new idea of yours, and I guess I feel a bit resentful that I didn't get acknowledged.

      Frank: [sighs] Lighten up Joan. What counts is that the idea gets through to him.

      Joan: You think I'm over-reacting, and the system will be working anyway.

      Frank: [nods] Sure. It's no big deal.

      Joan: Well, when my ideas don't get acknowledged as mine, that work I've put into planning them comes across as yours, and I do also want to know that my contribution is valued.

      Frank: Look, I just wrote it out quickly, and I wasn't thinking about who "owned" what idea.

      Joan: So you were doing the best you could with the time you had.

      Frank. [nods] Yeah. If it's important to you, I'll be more careful.

      Joan: Thanks. I would appreciate your help with that.

      Frank: Okay. It was a good idea. I just wasn't thinking. Sorry.

      Joan: Great. Thanks for passing it on, anyway. Adding my name will solve it for me.

      Joan "owns" a problem: she is the one who is concerned about what has happened, so she uses an I message. Frank is feeling Okay, so initially he doesn't own a problem.

      Frank responds indicating that he owns a problem, so Joan "shifts gears" and active listens him.

      Frank's nod indicates he feels paced/understood, so Joan shifts gears again and restates her I message.

      Frank is now apologising. As he's still not feeling totally comfortable, Joan again acknowledges his comments before thanking him for changing his approach.Conflict Differentiation The shifting gears process will lead to one of three outcomes. Depending on which outcome occurs, you can easily identify which steps to take next to most effectively resolve the conflict.

      Outcome 1) The shifting gears process itself resolves the conflict. Such conflict could be considered a simple miscommunication. In the example above, for instance, once Frank has clearly heard what Joan's problem is (which is assisted by her use of I messages and active listening - both her use of clear first position and clear second position) the problem is solved. Conflicts of the type described as Closed Calibration Loops by Bandler and Grinder in the book Changing With Families are of this type. No further action may be needed.

      Outcome 2) As a result of the shifting gears process, it becomes clear that both people have a concrete problem. Both people can understand that the other person has a problem, though they are reluctant to solve the other person's problem as this would leave them with their own difficulty. Thomas Gordon calls this a Conflict of Needs. In NLP terms it is a conflict which both parties have agreed to keep at the neurological level of environment, behaviour or capability (their values and sense of identity are not a subject of discussion, only how and where they do what). In such a situation, Gordon recommends the skilled use of his 6 step win-win conflict resolution model (Gordon, 1974, p217-234), which is an analogue of NLP's 6 step Reframing. Gordon's six steps are:

      1. Identify the problem in terms of two sets of needs, rather than two conflicting solutions. Needs are more chunked up descriptions than solutions, and are comparable to evidence procedures in NLP ("How will you know that this problem is solved?" rather than "What specific way would you suggest to solve this problem right now?")

      2. Brainstorm potential solutions which could meet both sets of needs.

      3. Evaluate the ability of these proposed solutions to meet both sets of needs.

      4. Choose a solution or more than one solutions to put into action.

      5. Act

        6. Evaluate the results.

        An example would be if the conversation between Frank and Joan went like this:

        Joan: Frank, I have a problem I'd like to discuss. You handed in a report to the Director yesterday and suggested that new filing system I had recommended to you last week. I see reading the report that you've described it as a new idea of yours, and I guess I feel a bit resentful that I didn't get acknowledged.

        Frank: [sighs] Lighten up Joan. What counts is that the idea gets through to him.

        Joan: You think I'm over-reacting, and the system will be working anyway.

        Frank: [nods] Sure. It's no big deal.

        Joan: Well, when my ideas don't get acknowledged as mine, that work I've put into planning them comes across as yours, and I do also want to know that my contribution is valued.

        Frank: Look, I just wrote it out quickly, and I wasn't thinking about who "owned" what idea. How am I supposed to know if your idea is important enough to be considered private property anyway?

        Joan: So you didn't realise the idea was important to me.

        Frank: [nods] Yeah. I have enough things to do without trying to guess which things you're considering that way.

        Joan: You need to have a way of knowing which things are important.

        Frank: Sure. If I knew, I'd have mentioned you.

        Joan: OK. So we need a way that you can know that and then you'd be happy to help with my concern. [Frank nods] Any suggestions?

        Frank: Well, yes actually. If you made a point of writing me a memo about each idea that's important to you that way, then I'd know to include your name about that issue.

        Joan: Excellent. That works for me. Thanks.

        Frank: No problem. I'll drop the Director another note about this time.

        Joan "owns" a problem: she is the one who is concerned about what has happened, so she uses an I message. Frank is feeling Okay, so initially he doesn't own a problemFrank responds indicating that he has a problem, so Joan "shifts gears" and active listens him.Frank's nod indicates he feels paced/understood, so Joan shifts gears again and restates her I message.Frank now understands that Joan has a concrete problem, but if he agreed to help her, he'd have a problem of his own (trying to guess what issues were serious enough for her). This is what Thomas Gordon calls a Conflict of Needs.

        Joan sums up the two sets of needs, and invites Frank to begin 6 step problem-solving to identify a solution which will meet both sets of needs. Outcome 3) As a result of the shifting gears process, it becomes clear that at least one person believes that the conflict involves their deeper beliefs, values or sense of identity. In Robert Dilts' model these are disagreements at a higher neurological level (Dilts, 1993, p 55-56). Such a person will be reluctant to engage in the sort of conflict resolution demonstrated above because their values are "non-negotiable". Put another way, Person A believes that Person B is trying to change Person A's values/identity, which Person A considers is really "none of Person B's business". This is what Thomas Gordon calls a "Values Collision" (Gordon, 1974, p283-306). Note that in this situation it is less likely that a satisfactory solution will be reached in one session. Skills that are recommended by Thomas Gordon for influencing others values include values consulting, and modelling. Modelling involves demonstrating, in ones own behaviour, the effectiveness of one's values. Values consulting is a skilled linguistic influencing process which requires (Gordon, 1974, p294-297):

        1. Ensuring you have been "hired" as a consultant (that the other person agrees to listen).

        2. Preparing your case, especially any relevant information.

        3. Sharing your expertise and opinions in simple I message form ("I believe...") and shifting gears to active listen the other's opinion.

          4. Leaving the other to make up their own mind, rather than attempting to force a new value. People rarely change values in direct interaction with someone who shares the opposing value. It is more common for them to change at a later time, having been left in a positive state, to choose.

          If you attempted to resolve Values collisions as if they were Conflicts of Needs (disagreements at a lower neurological level, to use Dilts model) it could well lead to disillusionment with the conflict resolution process, and the belief that "some people just cannot be engaged in a win-win conflict resolution way". At times a person may also decide that rather than attempt to influence the other person's values, they will learn to live with the difference, or to alter the relationship so that the other person's values do not clash so frequently with theirs. Here's how the conversation between Frank and Joan might go if it was a Values Collision:

          Joan: Frank, I have a problem I'd like to discuss. You handed in a report to the Director yesterday and suggested that new filing system I had recommended to you last week. I see reading the report that you've described it as a new idea of yours, and I guess I feel a bit resentful that I didn't get acknowledged.

          Frank: [sighs] Lighten up Joan. What counts is that the idea gets through to him.

          Joan: You think I'm over-reacting, and the system will be working anyway.

          Frank: [nods] Sure. It's no big deal.

          Joan: Well, when my ideas don't get acknowledged as mine, that work I've put into planning them comes across as yours, and I do also want to know that my contribution is valued.

          Frank: Look, I just wrote it out quickly, and I wasn't thinking about who owned what ideas. Actually, we all develop these ideas together, and as far as I'm concerned no-one "owns" them.

          Joan: So you think of all the ideas as our collective property. I guess my approach sounds kind of selfish to you.

          Frank: [nods] Exactly.

          Joan: Well, I have a different way of thinking about that. I'd like to discuss it some more some time. Would you be willing to hear my thoughts about that.

          Frank: [sighs] Maybe.... Yeah, I guess so. I don't want to get into a heavy discussion about it now though.

          Joan: Great. How about after the meeting on Friday: maybe we could put aside half an hour to clarify our approaches with each other.

          Frank: Okay.

          Joan "owns" a problem: she is the one who is concerned about what has happened, so she uses an I message. Frank is feeling Okay, so initially he doesn't own a problem

          Frank responds indicating that he has a problem, so Joan "shifts gears" and active listens him.

          Frank's nod indicates he feels paced/understood, so Joan shifts gears again and restates her I message.

          Frank identifies a difference in values about the issue

          Joan active listens Frank's value.

          Joan arranges to meet with Frank at a time that is easier for him to discuss their values difference. There, she will continue to use active listening and I messages to advocate her value, acting as what Thomas Gordon calls a "Values Consultant", and modelling her values.The Use Of Coercive Power A fundamental principle of Effectiveness Training is that the use of coercive power in relationships is counterproductive. The destructive results of coercion by both rewards and punishments are discussed by us in another article. Effectiveness Training is a real world model. In the real world there are some situations where you will decide it's worth the damage to control another person's behaviour by using power. Thomas Gordon suggests (Gordon, 1974, p279-282) that these situations could include:

          * Situations where you don't have the say over what the rule is. If you work. for a company you won't be able to negotiate solutions that give away their property. If you are a teacher you won't be able to arrange for someone to break a school rule. (You can, of course, work to change such rules.)

          * Situations where your own need is overriding. You don't, for instance, have to put up with a person hitting you; forcibly preventing them may well be worth their response of frustration or resentment.

          * Situations where it seems to you that another person is obviously in danger. It wouldn't make sense to calmly watch someone walk in front of a speeding car, while sending the clear I message "I'm really worried that that car will hit you!" Mostly their initial annoyance, at being grabbed and pulled off the road, will be worth coping with.

          * Situations where there is no time to discuss the matter. If you have a conflict arise ten minutes before your plane is due to take off, you may decide it's worth temporarily refusing to sort it out.

          * Situations where talking with the person is impossible. This will include many conflicts involving children less than two years old, and conflicts with people who are drunk or fully unconnected to reality.

          Even in these cases, it's worth remembering the damage power over others causes. You can reduce the damage to your relationship by:

          * Only using the minimum force needed to solve your problem.

          * Explaining, afterwards, how you came to use power, and assuring the other person that this is not your usual intention.

          * Using active listening to acknowledge their resentment, and spending time rebuilding your relationship.

          * Planning how to avoid that situation in the future.

          These last three steps could be done quite simply, as in this example: "I'd like to talk about what happened before. I don't mean to push you around, and only acted the way I did because I couldn't find a way to safely sort it out at the time. I guess you felt pretty annoyed, and I'd like to try and sort out some agreement, so we don't get into that situation again."

          This is an emergency strategy for times when the use of power was logically unavoidable (rather than times when it seemed like a simple solution). To restate the case, the use of co-ercion is relationships is associated consistently with destructive effects for both participants and for the relationship (see Bolstad and Hamblett, 1998).

           

          Implications For The NLP Community

          As we said at the beginning of this article, we are not intending to propose the Effectiveness Training model as a methodology for use in the NLP community, so much as to use it as an example of the type of methodology we would like to encourage NLP practitioners to develop. In its original form, Effectiveness Training has some disadvantages.

          * It uses negative language-describing conflict resolution as a "No-lose method" (Gordon, 1974, p217) for example.

          * It has a problem focus rather than an outcome focus -the concept of "needs" which must be resolved in a conflict (Gordon, 1974, p272- 273) might better be replaced by a concept of "outcomes" which could be met by the resolution, for example.

          * It has a lack of understanding of NLP change technology, leading to a limited notion of helping as simply guiding a person through the problem solving steps (Gordon, 1974, p106-112).

          Its key advantages seem to us to be:

          * A clear sorting process to identify the situation from first and second position, and thus select useful skills ("problem ownership").

          * A structure for elegantly shifting back and forth from helping skills such as pacing to
          assertive skills such as I messages ("shifting gears").

          * Differentiation of conflicts by neurological level (into "conflicts of needs" and "values collisions").

          * A commitment to win-win outcomes, and influence rather than coercion.

          * Sensory specific descriptions of effective language patterns (passive listening, door openers, active listening, I messages, 6 step problem solving, consulting and modelling especially).

          * A methodology which does not depend on the other person using it (or even being familiar with it).

          Such a methodology is implicit in NLP's original modelling of Virginia Satir (the Metamodel, for example, can be viewed as a structure for coaching a client to generate wellformed I messages). We believe that current events in the NLP community underscore the value of us co-creating such a methodology, and we offer this as a preliminary modelling of the skills required. The processes described here are further explained in our new NLP text Transforming Communication.

           

          References:

          Bandler, R., Grinder, J. and Satir, V. Changing With Families, Science and Behaviour Books, Palo Alto, California, 1976

          Bolstad, R. and Hamblett, M. Transforming Communication, Addison-Wesley-Longman, Auckland, 1998

          Dilts, R. with Bonissone, G. Skills For The Future, Meta Publications, Cupertino, California, 1993

          Gordon, T. "Teaching People To Create Therapeutic Environments" in Suhd, M. M. ed Positive Regard, Science and Behaviour Books, Palo Alto California, 1995, pp 301-336

          Gordon, T. Leader Effectiveness Training, Peter H. Wyden, New York, 1978

          Gordon, T. Parent Effectiveness Training, Peter H. Wyden, New York, 1970

          Gordon, T. Teacher Effectiveness Training, Peter H. Wyden, New York, 1974

          Gordon, T. Group Centered Leadership: A Way of Releasing The Creative Potential In Groups, Houghton-Mifflin, Boston, 1955

          Satir, V. Peoplemaking, Science and Behaviour, Palo Alto, California, 1972

           

          ©Richard Bolstad, 1997. Transformations International Consulting & Training Ltd.

          Richard Bolstad and Margot Hamblett are NLP trainers teaching in New Zealand, Japan and Europe. They are Instructors and also train Instructors for Gordon Training International, and have a deep commitment to the promotion of win-win conflict resolution. [Margot Hamblett has since died. You can contact Richard Bolstad for current information about NLP trainings and Gorden Training International.] 

           

          For more information about our NLP Certification Trainings and the NLP Institute of California phone us at 800-767-6756, 801-277-2014, or send us an e-mail.

           

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