Making Collaboration a Way of LIfe

Resolving conflict collaboratively is a way of life. Some have likened it to learning a new language. It does not  happen overnight. It requires compassion, courage and perseverance to venture beyond the familiar roles of victim, villain and hero.


Collaboration falls into the “simple, but not easy” category. The concepts are simple; human being are not. Here are some excerpts from my book, The Joy of Conflict Resolution.  asked colleagues the question “how did you integrate conflict resolution into your life?” and compiled their answers in a chapter entitled Tips for the Traveler”

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.

Bilbo Baggins in J.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings

Observing ourselves

In conflict, our subconscious often triggers automatic reactions. To develop new responses, try spending a week simply observing yourself. Notice how you feel, what you think and how you respond in conversation and especially in conflict. Avoid judging yourself, especially when you respond defensively. Instead of criticizing yourself, simply notice (“Wow, I really got triggered there”). When we let go of judgement, we no longer need to defend or justify ourselves. We create room for curiosity and opportunities for learning. We can shed automatic reactions and deliberately choose more productive responses in conflict.

Donna Soules, mediator/trainer

Cleaning up our own act

Somewhere along this journey, I realized that the most important conflict resolution work we can do is to clean up our own act. In my experience, most conflict is “intra-personal,” that is, it lies within ourselves and has nothing at all to do with the other person. If we manage ourselves and our own emotions effectively, there will clearly be problems to solve and differences to deal with, yes. But we are increasingly less likely to be triggered, reactive or contribute to the negativity in conflict as we continue to do our ongoing personal “cleanup” work. A life’s journey, for sure!

Jill Schroder, author of Becoming: Journeying Toward Authenticity

It starts within. Have fun observing yourself. More tips to follow.

About Gary Harper, The Joy of Conflict Resolution

Gary Harper is the principal of Harper and Associates. He is a trainer, writer and facilitator who specializes in conflict resolution. Through his unique blend of experience as a personal injury lawyer, general manager, insurance regulator and retail store owner, he learned the value of clear communication and conflict resolution skills. Since 1991 he has trained and mediated in a wide variety of organizations - from health care to the film industry to many levels of government. He is a member of the instructional team of the Centre for Conflict Resolution at the Justice Institute of B. C. and recently authored The Joy of Conflict Resolution: Transforming Victims, Villains and Heroes in the Workplace and at Home.
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