Reframe Conflict to Promote "Ripeness"

Roy Lewicki 

Professor of Management and Human Resources at Ohio State University

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

Q: In that first example that you gave in Ohio, as a third party, do you advocate a situation like that for negotiations? Do you advocate for settlements outside of the court? What role do you see a third party playing in a situation where you see the environment having the upper hand and the corporations are looking for a loosening of the regulations?

A: I am not sure that there is a perfect solution in all cases. It was very clear in this case that the third parties were at the table, but also facilitators that were hired were not tuned into what was really going on. The ear that they were listening to the conversation was not an ear that would have allowed them to approach the parties and try to get some conversations on a more productive or useful tact. Alternatively, to decide whether we were wasting everyone's time by having these meetings, if in fact, the real interests of the parties were to play the dispute out in court. In other words, the party that likes things the way they are is happy to talk but really takes no constructive action. The disadvantaged party hopes to take things to court and hopes to get something better than what they would be getting. Had the disputants approached the problem at that level they might have realistically confronted each other as to the productivity of what they were trying to do at the table and whether it was worth all the time and energy they were putting into it.

Q: If I were a third party facilitator in that situation and I came to you and said "Roy I'm stuck." What could I do?

A: One of the things that we could try to do is listen for the frames that are being actively used by the parties. Then we can begin to figure out how to reframe or change some of the language that is being used.