Giving someone in conflict what they want versus giving clients what they need

When someone in conflict comes to a manager or a conflict specialist for help with a conflict, they often ask for a solution. They want the manager or specialist to fix things for them, or at the very least to tell them what they should do.  Having someone intervene on your behalf, or give you advice and direction about what to do next, can be very helpful if the person intervening or giving advice has the appropriate knowledge and skills. However, there are downsides to relying on someone else in this way. Firstly, the other person may not know everything they need to know to make the best choices. Secondly, involving another person in your conflict may complicate things further. Thirdly, you lose the opportunity to figure things out for yourself, which provides you with an opportunity for learning and a confidence boost.

The dilemma when someone asks us to intervene in their conflict, either directly or by providing advice, is whether that is the best option for that person, or simply what seems like the quickest and easiest way out of an uncomfortable situation. 

When this happens, we have to decide whether to give them what they want (intervention or advice) or perhaps what they truly need (support to figure things out for themselves). Sometimes, it’s hard to know what they truly need. Here are three factors we can take into account in making that choice:

  • What they are willing to do.  Are they willing to try a coaching type approach instead or first? 
  • What we are willing to do. Are we are willing to intervene or provide advice, or do we need to refer them elsewhere?
  • Time. Is there sufficient time to engage in a coaching intervention, or is there some urgency that may require a more direct intervention immediately?

What other factors do you think are important in making this choice?

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