Problems with Problem Solving

I have spent a lot of time analyzing the dual concern model. The basic idea of this model is that the actors in a conflict must determine how important a particular goal of theirs is in relation to the other party’s concern for or against the same goal. Basically you are weighing your own willingness to fight for something against your perception of your opponent’s willingness to fight against it.

The model provide four basic strategies, plus a fifth alternative. Pruitt and Kim describe them this way: when neither side cares about a particular outcome, you avoid, that is you take no action. If you care about a particular outcome and the other side doesn’t, you contend, or push the other side to concede. If you don’t care about something that is important to the other side, you yield, let them have what they want. If both sides care about a particular outcome then they work together to problem solve. The fifth alternative is compromise, a mutually disagreeable solution.

Problem solve sounds so nice. It makes it seem like the contending parties are just going to come together and work everything out, calmly and rationally. That leads me to my biggest criticism of my field of study: the blind optimism that every conflict that can be resolved.

Don’t get me wrong, problem solving can be calm and rational, but it requires calm and rational participants. In my personal experience, not all people approach conflict in a calm and rational manner. To be fair, Pruitt and Kim do have a chapter on contentious tactics in their book, they are not turning a blind eye to the fact that conflict is not always so easily resolved.

Problem solving describes a situation where both sides are placing a high level of importance on the outcome. Both sides want it to go their way. If both sides are calm and rational, then there is a good chance that they can discuss the issues and create a solution that fully satisfies each side.  I would guess that more often than not emotion and pride quickly move participants beyond calmness and rationality.

I suppose it is philosophically a good idea for we students of conflict resolution to be taught that all conflict is resolvable. I suppose as a matter of pragmatism it is heartening for people to believe that all problems can be solved. I may be a little cynical, but it only takes one bad actor to destroy an optimistic  outlook. One of my colleagues put it best when he wrote, “Conflict is inevitable, resolution is not.”

The semester is over!

I have just finished, more or less, my first semester of grad school. Like many things in my life thus far, it was much more challenging than I thought it would be, and at the same time not as hard as I thought it would be. I am glad it is just about over (I have one more paper to submit, online, that I am doing the final editing for now).

I have to say I learned a lot. The interesting thing is not that I learned some new tidbits of information, or gained some heretofore unknown perspective on life. The most interesting thing is what I have learned about myself. It is not that I learned something new about myself either.

I have learned that I have been on the right path for myself for many years. It has not always been easy. I guess I don’t really do things the way they are supposed to be done. But none of that really matters. I know I am going where I need to go.

So I have about a month to actually get to writing some things that have been on my mind for a while. Leo’s World (the weblog site, anyway) is going to be used for more than just posting pictures or stuff from my other blogs. I am now going to be posting things that don’t fit on my other blogs. It may get kind of random at times, but anyone who knows me knows that I have a tendency to go off on tangents.

Don’t be scared if it gets a little weird, I will bring it back to make my point. So relax a little. You just might enjoy it.

Hanging garden day 34

So we are a day shy of 5 weeks. The garden is doing well. The tomato and the lemon cucumber plants that were my original hanging plants are both fruiting. I don’t know if that is according to schedule or better, it is just nice to know that my plants are fruiting. The others that I planted are starting to flower, so the fruit won’t be far behind.
As a matter of fact, my jalapeño plant is fruiting very well right now. I will let you know how hot the chilies are when I make my first batch of salsa.
It is interesting to me to note that the plants are all still growing up. I wonder if the weight of the fruit will weigh down the plants? In another couple of weeks we should know.

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