Last year under financial pressure, my City decided to close my loss making local public swimming pool, and as a passionate swimmer I was upset.
So were all the regular swimmers and this rapidly turned to anger: why swimming? What about all the other ways to save money? We rapidly got a head of steam underway to write to the City Council to demand reconsideration. But we took a slightly different approach than simple confrontation. We demanded the right to work with the City to try to make the pool economic: to find ways to increase attendance, revenue and reduce costs short of closing. And we got a task force than in due course dramatically reduced the net cost of the pool and it was saved.
This illustrates a key fact in conflict. While we often sit across the table from the other side in conflict literally or metaphorically and indeed eye contact may be necessary to achieve enough understanding to become constructive and have some minimum level of trust, once we move toward getting creative in conflict we need a different approach. We need to sit beside the other side and view the conflict as a problem, a knot to be untied that we can either make tighter or looser. The conflict is no longer between us but our joint problem. Try it sometime!