Below the Tip of the Iceberg

This graphic is from the powerpoint of a training session I attended on February 18, 2015 at Assiniboine Community College that was facilitated by Karen Ridd of the Resolution Skills Centre, 302-1200 Portage Ave, Winnipeg, MB.  You can see more info about their training sessions by visiting their website at

I thought it was an excellent visual for thinking about seeking the needs that are behind people’s behaviour:

Resolution Skills Centre

The dark green points of the triangle represent the positions that people often present in a conflict.  They are the demands or solutions that people tend to make when trying to resolve a conflict.  The problem is that often the different positions of the people are incompatible – and if a resolution is sought at this point, it results in a win-lose situation:  One person’s solution is accepted and the other’s is not.  This model suggests that instead of getting people to focus on the “tip of the iceberg” by looking only at people’s positions, that effective conflict resolution comes from looking below the surface and finding out what interests are driving people’s positions.  What are their needs, hopes, wants etc?  No matter how far apart people’s positions are, there are always common interests that both parties share, and when discussions occur at that level, new opportunities for resolution can be found.

In Restitution, we always seek to move from a position of going toe to toe with others, to instead being shoulder to shoulder in solving problems.  When we are able to find those common interests, it opens up new opportunities for finding solutions.

For example, I had a discussion this week with someone about a conflict in a school about whether or not condoms should be available to students.  At first, it seemed that there was very little common ground, and nothing that the opposing parties could agree on.  But when we dug deeper, we realized that what both sides have in common is the desire to have their personal/cultural/religious beliefs respected.  Instead of focusing on whether or not we should have condoms, the discussion changed to how to be respectful of everyone’s beliefs.

Can you think of a seemingly impossible situation might be resolved by looking below the tip of the iceberg?




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