This issue we'll look at the advantages of the collaborating style of conflict management. As in past issues, the discussion will center around when to use collaborating for best effect.
Many people think of win-win negotiation when discussing collaborating, and it's frequently used with this style. Benefits of this style include high quality decisions, strengthening relationships, and improving communication and group learning.
Collaboration is best used on the most important issues facing the group. When an issue is very important, the extra time and effort needed to come to a win-win solution makes up for the importance of the results to the group members. When rather diverse viewpoints or positions are involved, collaborating can bring in experts to help in the decision making process. The more viewpoints you can bring into the discussion, the greater effect the decision will have on the group, if everyone can agree on the outcome. Consensus building can require a lot of effort, but increases the commitment of others towards the goal. This style is quite useful in addressing relationship issues in a group, particularly things that have been unresolved for quite a while and have been boiling below the surface.
Some ways to be successful at collaborating include using "we" language instead of "I" or "you" and avoiding blame. Point out the benefits to all concerned of any solution you propose. Make sure the others are willing and able to address the issue at hand when you bring it up. If the timing is off, you could waste your time and frustrate others. The main strategy involves understanding and clarifying both your own and the other parties' positions or concerns. They must all be dealt with for collaborating to be effective. One question you might ask to introduce possible solutions to everyone's concerns is to ask, "How could we do both?" For example, how could you save money and increase spending on marketing. This helps get everyone thinking together on solutions that benefit all parties.
To improve your collaborating effectiveness, try to get as much information on the problems at hand as possible. Brainstorm to uncover new solutions. Find goals the entire group can agree upon. Aim for consensus. If you're unable to reach it, allow the most relevant senior person to make the decision. Otherwise, you could spend endless hours going nowhere in the futile search for consensus.