Stage Three of the ReST Method: Resolution

Once the participants have been prepared for the process and have been properly shown how to communicate, the Resolution can happen.

Oddly enough, this is the simplest part of the process for the mediator. There are three steps to observe for a Resolution to occur:

  1. Mediator steps back
  2. Conflicting parties collaborate
  3. Publish the resolution


Step one: Mediator Steps Back

You’ve made your expectations clear, modeled appropriate behavior and allowed some time to pass. By now, your conflicting parties are itching to get out of there. It is here that you let them know you are going to step back and let them take over. This may mean you are going over to a different part of the room or are leaving the room altogether depending on the temperature of the two parties (discussed earlier). What it really means is that you are no longer going to be involved in their issue. To closely monitor the progress, you may need to be in the room, speaking only as a referee who helps them hear each other when necessary.

Step Two: Conflicting Parties Collaborate

As hard as it might be, do not let yourself get caught up in deciding anything about the resolution. It’s not about you. It’s not for you. It’s all about them and how they feel. It has nothing to do with what they say. It’s all about how they feel. There will be times when the conflicting parties get stumped and frustrated with each other in this part of the process. That’s normal. The most you should do here is help to keep the temperature low by having them repeat what the other has said or notice out loud what they see in the other’s metamessages.

As frustration arises between the two, remember this: A child who is learning a new skill (tying shoes, jumping rope, etc.) will get frustrated. In fact, 20 minutes of frustration while learning a new skill is a healthy thing. Frustration causes a person to improvise, digging into their creative intelligence, to find a solution. This opens up new pathways of thinking that are critical for growth.

A person thrust into resolving their own conflict is no different than a child struggling to tie their own shoes. They will whine, they will want to throw things, they will shake their fists in anger, shout out loud, etc. But before all that happens, you have given them all the tools they need to be successful in doing this on their own. Resolving their problem for them is exactly like tying their shoes for them when they get frustrated. You will always need to be there to do it for them. They will learn nothing from it and therefore will never move on from this point. They will always expect someone else to clean up their mess. And their messes will get bigger until they are taught how to clean up after themselves.

So, let them decide what the resolution will be and, as long as they are both satisified with it, accept it. Congratulate them both on resolving their own problem.

Step Three: Publish the Resolution

You might find the resolution your two parties come up with is just what you would have recommended. And many other times you will be amazed at what their resolution entails. No matter what, everyone who witnessed the conflict has a vested interest in knowing what the outcome is.

Let’s pretend that two boys are fighting over who is first in line. The resolution they decide on can range from the silly to the stern to something out of left field:

Silly: “I am going to let him go first because he is my new best friend”.
Stern: “We are both going to be at the end of the line for the rest of summer camp in everything we do.”
Left Field: “He is going to give me his potato chips and I am going to teach him how to tie his shoes”. 

What matters most in the outcome is that the two parties are both satisfied with what they have decided on together.

Now that the resolution has been decided, it must be made known. Depending on the severity of the conflict (e.g. violent schoolyard fight that everyone is talking about vs. a shouting match that almost nobody has seen) the resolution should be made known just as widely as the conflict. There are, in many cases, a whole yard full of nosy onlookers who want to know what is going to happen to “those guys who got in trouble”. The onlookers have a lot to gain by knowing what the outcome is. They can see they have nothing to fear by working out their own problems. They can also gain satisfaction by knowing that something has been done and that the two conflicting parties are no longer mad at each other. This will also enhance the respect, safety and trust around the entire playground, knowing that as problems arise they will be taken care of.

Indeed, as the conflicting parties report back to their friends, they will quiet the rumors and harmful talk that usually reignites conflicts that are resolved by the mediator.

Another advantage of publishing the resolution or making it known is that parents or even the authorities who deal with the fallout from big conflicts will begin to trust the children to handle their own problems instead of having to step in.


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