One of the ways I support clients to resolve conflict is helping them re-imagine what is possible. Our stories have power and we can all get trapped by the stories we tell ourselves and others about a situation. These restrictive and negative stories can prevent us from using creative and imaginative problem solving to come up with more effective and positive solutions.
One of my inspirations for creative problem solving is science fiction.
I am an avid novel reader, and SciFi, as we lovingly call it, has been one of my favorite genres sincw I was eleven years old. I love the way SciFi creates new cultures that have different ways of being together and communicating and solving problems. One of the patterns I have noticed over and over, is that technologies that originally only existed in the wild and fertile imagination of science fiction writers have become reality. Examples: submarines—Jules Verne, hand held phones—Dick Tracy, video phones—Robert Heinlein and others, replicators (3 D printers)—Star Trek The Next generation; robots—Isaac Asimov and R.U.R. , virtual reality—Marge Piercy and Melissa Scott, among others.
I was just reading recently about “fake” meat—vat grown “meat” made from vegetables or from animal cells grown in a lab. I first read about this possibility 30 years ago in some short stories and novels by the great SciFi writer John Varley.
With Science Fiction writing, once some crazy visionary conceives the idea, then more practical engineers and scientists can begin to think: “Hmmm. What would you need to do that? What technology? What design? What materials? What do we know now to start with? What problems would we have to solve?”
So how does this apply to conflict resolution? My clients have to believe that a different path is possible before they can walk it.
My clients tell me over and over that someone or something is “impossible”. They tell me how they see the problem and what they have tried to fix it. And what they see and try is limited. My job, more than anything, is to help people move beyond the limits of their own stuck thinking and open up to different perspectives, to busting assumptions about who the other person is or what is possible to resolve the misunderstanding. I’m pretty good at it at this point, in part because I’ve had to do this busting work many times with my own attitudes and limits, and because my clients have given me many more opportunities to practice.
I help clients ask questions like the ones posed by engineers and scientists.
For example, If the other person isn’t “ out to get you”, why might they be doing or saying that? If you look at your part in the problem, what new insight can your get? How can you change how you are thinking and what you are doing so you can become allies? What is possible when you set aside your preconceptions and limits?
As in SciFi, what we can think of we can work to make real! And the Universe opens up in a more creative and affirming way to help us resolve or dissolve conflict better.