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How do you make theory relevant and meaningful to people in the midst of conflict, many of whom don't really want to talk about the issue in the first place? This is a question that we grappled with and which, ultimately, led to the creation of our Birds.
In our work as conflict management specialists, we found ourselves frequently teaching clients about conflict management styles. We recognized that how individuals approach a conflict is as significant as the issue that led to the conflict in the first place.
Most people, when faced with conflict, react instinctively instead of taking the time to deliberately choose an approach that may assist them in resolving the issue. Many times, individuals adopt an approach to a conflict situation that only leads to further conflict escalation rather than resolution.
Understanding the different approaches to conflict, or conflict management styles, is an important first step in resolving conflict. With this understanding comes the recognition that we have a choice in how we respond to conflict. We can choose an appropriate approach that will allow us to get the results we want.
But in talking about the theory of conflict management styles with our clients, we found ourselves searching for metaphors and ways to make the theories more applicable and memorable. We wanted our clients to recognize their behaviors and the behaviors or others, to understand the concepts and to apply that knowledge to their own situations. We needed a metaphor that was accessible, non-judgmental and even a little bit fun!
Over a period of time we discovered that there are many parallels between the five conflict management styles and certain birds - we had found our metaphor! As we talked to clients about Woodpeckers, Parakeets, Owls, Ostriches, and Hummingbirds, we were delighted by the enthusiastic response we received, and heartened to see that they were more readily able to remember and apply the knowledge. The Birds have become an effective way to talk about conflict in a non-threatening and entertaining way that truly highlights the creative possibilities of conflict.
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