PILLARS OF THE ToP™ APPROACH
By Wayne Nelson

The possibility of conciliation exists in every situation. Every human thought or action is significant and has very real effects on the situation. The people involved can make wise, responsible choices and they can work together to develop solutions for common problems.

Form a Common Purpose – Conciliation happens when people address what is common to a group rather than what divides it. A joint problem-solving approach with the involved parties exploring common concerns provides a vehicle for coming together. This approach defines the situation, identifies the interests and frames questions in such a way as to develop a genuine sense of joint ownership.

Develop a Genuine Dialogue – Making real and substantial progress depends on it. Conciliatory methods enable the group to develop an authentic dialogue and create a consensus on the solutions. This approach assumes that unity and consensus are possible from the beginning, while its tools work to realize them.

Focus on Substance – The focus of joint problem solving is primarily on the substantial questions under consideration. Conciliatory processes enable the group to examine and address their critical issues and move to consensus. We have found that divisions and hostility can get healed effectively by focusing on the primary topics of concern, looking for the underlying contradictions, and working together to unblock them.

Maintain Healthy Relationships – To promote conciliation, all the factors involved must come into alignment. Poor communication, bad feelings and dysfunctional relationships can cause any process to go off the rails. We use basic methods of participation to ensure positive communication and develop an environment conducive to success. When people feel respected and respect each other, trust is built.

Respect Multiple Perspectives – Most conflict, by definition, assumes two sides to an issue. Recognizing the many possible perspectives involved in any one topic, and drawing them out, takes people beyond a dualistic worldview and allows them to see a larger picture. When the problem is reframed the possibility for effective solutions increases.

Promote Clear Thinking – Conciliation processes need to keep people grounded in reality, that is, in the substance of the real issues. The method helps identify and maintain the parameters of the task and the process; clarify ideas and relate them to the focus question; and separate objective information from reflections, associations, interpretations and decisions.

Focus on Forming Consensus – Consensus, the core of lasting solutions, enables people to move forward together. A consensus articulates the common will of the group. It enables all the participants to win. Conciliation happens when people think things through to the point where the group is able to make appropriate decisions, plans and commitments. Resolution becomes real when it is acted out.

Be the Presence of Objectivity – It is helpful to have a facilitator who can establish and maintain the presence of objectivity. While the facilitator enables the process, there is no attempt to influence the substance or the results. The facilitator focuses on guiding a process which will enable people to create the best possible results. In the absence of an outside facilitator, groups need to focus much more attention on process in order to be successful.

This article is included in our “Facilitating Conciliation” course, which we will offer again online in 2022.

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