I am enjoying Ian Leslie’s fine book “Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on it”. And it got me thinking that actually being curious is profoundly important to any conflict handling: our curiosity about the conflicts we face, the people we face them with, our interests, the possible solutions and how to make a good deal. And curiosity is a good counter to the self-righteousness we almost always bring to conflict, not to mention our knee moral auto pilot and fast unreflective thinking. Curiosity as an antidote to our normal dysfunctional conflict handling.
So I thought I would look at the Seven Stage Creative Conflict Wisdom disciplined process underlying this blog in the light of this insight on the importance of curiosity in conflict:
- Getting Real About the Conflict: Using curiosity to get absolute clarity on the conflict situation we face, who it is with, what it is about, what we know we know about it, our work space. What we know we don’t know about it: the research agenda for any negotiation to find out more about the conflict and the other side. What we don’t know we know: the results of relevant past curiosity that we have in our mental or physical files we haven’t yet seen are relevant to this conflict. And finally the great challenge to our curiosity: what we don’t know we don’t know: our blindspots that we need to uncover with the most searching curiosity.
- Getting Clear about Your Interests. Rather than sit comfortably in our positions in the conflict we should be deeply curious about our interests and how best to meet them, using curiosity and the marvelous question Why? Why do we want what we want? Why do we make the demands we make in the conflict? What drives our positions?
- Getting Empathetic about the Other Side’s Interests. And even more challenging, to show comparable curiosity about the other side’s interests and how best to meet them, ideally in ways that don’t conflict with our interests. Again using that marvelously curious question: Why? What do they want what they want? Why do they make the demands they make in the conflict? What drives their positions?
- Getting Creative about Possible Solutions. Once we have uncovered our own interests and the other side’s interests, we can free form brain storm using our curiosity powered by that other marvelous question What If? To create a long list of possible ways to resolve the conflict, initially on a no committment basis, just to see what is possible if we and perhaps the other side can get genuinely curious and creative. Creativity being great assisted by curiosity about possible solutions.
- Getting Stereoscopic: Seeing the Conflict from Both Sides Simultaneously. It really does require considerable curiosity to be able to simultaneously see both side’s in conflict, our own and the other side’s as if from the balcony, looking down with dispassionate curiosity to see if there is any way to resolving the difference creatively via some breakthrough new perspective that transcends the difference. I don’t know any way of doing this that does not require great curiosity?
- Getting Specific: Making a Good Deal that Meet Both Side’s Interests. All our previous curiosity in stages 1-5 can now be put to good use to create a good deal, though even when we have found one that seems to meet both side’s interests, we can still show curiosity by asking that stretching question: is this the best we can do? Is there nothing we can add to the deal that would even better meet both side’s interests?
- Getting Wise: Learning from the Conflict. There is nothing quite like the US Military’s After Action Review process, asking what went well, what didn’t go so well and what would we do differently next time to check that we have indeed not only followed the process but done so with requisite curiosity.