Resolving Personal and Organizational Conflict: Stories of Transformation & Forgiveness
By Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith
Summary written by Brad Spangler, Conflict Research Consortium
Citation: Cloke, Kenneth and Joan Goldsmith. Resolving Personal and Organizational Conflict: Stories of Transformation & Forgiveness. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2000.
Resolving Personal and Organizational Conflict: Stories of Transformation & Forgiveness is based on the premise that the structure of conflict stories will reveal hidden truths about the teller as well as about his or her enemies. The authors therefore believe that every story told affords tellers and listeners an opportunity to identify possibilities for personal and organizational learning. The stories presented in the work are true and were drawn from the authors' work as mediators. Cloke and Goldsmith ask that readers examine the stories critically, attempting to imagine themselves as the mediator as well as each of the adversaries. Rather than focusing on solutions to the particular conflicts presented in the stories, the goal of the work is to identify a broad set of methods and skills for analyzing conflict stories and supporting people in finding the solutions they need. The focus "is less on how to moderate anger than on how to transform it into awareness, dialogue, and reconciliation (xvi)."
The first two chapters of the book, "offer a framework for understanding and working with stories of conflict," setting the stage for a critical read of the twelve conflict narratives that follow (xvi). Chapters Three through Six provide stories that are meant to illuminate the role the stories themselves play in maintaining and resolving conflicts. These chapters all have the same structure, which includes a brief introduction to the theme of the stories therein, then two to three stories, and lastly a brief section that conveys the authors' observations and reflections on the particular situation as they experienced it as mediators.
Chapter Three is about communication issues, while Chapter Four relates stories in which the narrators are willing to sacrifice some important part of their lives just to protect their stories (xvi). The stories in Chapter Five examine conflict in organizations and the repercussions that ripple throughout an organization as a result, affecting people who were not even directly involved. Boundary violations -- and the stories employed to justify, rationalize, disguise, accentuate, or cover them up -- are discussed in Chapter Six.
Resolving Personal and Organizational Conflict: Stories of Transformation & Forgiveness represents an innovative approach to the study of conflict. The story analysis methods outlined in the book may encourage people to think more critically regarding the stories they tell about conflict in their own lives as well as the stories they hear other people tell. The fact that the stories presented are true stories raises the credibility of the authors' objective. Moreover, the ability to decipher the deeper, underlying messages regarding the dynamics of a conflict from the stories told about it is certainly a valuable skill for anyone to possess.