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As anyone involved in a conflict has experienced, it's easier to keep complaining and blaming others than actually to work on resolving the situation. Much of this is human nature. After all, you know the "rules" about complaining. You also know the situation from your perspective and you are probably fairly comfortable describing it. It's interesting that every time people retell an incident in which they believe they were wronged, their perception of it becomes more difficult to put aside. All the old emotions are re-experienced; it's as if the brain imprints them more deeply with each retelling. And for the most part, people get trapped in remembering how they were wronged in the past.

Focused discussion to resolve the situation, however, is new for most people. You don't know the "rules." There is no common "history" to fall back on. The Exchange resolution process may feel a little uncomfortable because it's going to involve change. Change, even good change, is stressful. This is why having someone there to direct the resolution process is so helpful. Without direction from a trained facilitator like Kim Brown, the conversation would tend to go around in circles of the past. The Exchange offers an opportunity to move into the future.


This stage of The Exchange process is called "Problem Solving." It is Stage Four, the final crucial stage. Without Stage Four, completing Stages One, Two, and Three of the process may make people feel good about having had a chance to talk but then they may feel disappointed, or even cheated, that no decisions were made. As a result the next time conflicts occur, people might be less likely to agree to participate in an Exchange or be able to work through the issues more respectfully on their own. The ultimate goal of The Exchange is to find practical solutions to whatever the conflict issues are.

It is important to begin this problem-solving stage early in the joint meeting, but not until the foundation of understanding, the impacts, has been laid. People like to feel they are making progress and nothing feels more like progress than a decision to do something. Often, there is an almost palpable sense of relief in the room when the manager:

  • Initiates the discussion of the issues in Stage Three.

  • Allows each person to state his or her perspective.

  • Asks that options for resolving the issues be put on the table.

The decision-making process is flexible. It is not a straight line, as you will find out yourself when leading The Exchange, moving back and forth between Stages Three and Four. With each issue in controversy, the goal is to define, determine (interests), develop, decide, and, later, document.

  • Define. First, the leader makes sure that everyone ...

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