Academic journal article Group Facilitation

The Ways of One and Many: Exploring the Integration of Conflict Coaching and Dialogue-Facilitation

Academic journal article Group Facilitation

The Ways of One and Many: Exploring the Integration of Conflict Coaching and Dialogue-Facilitation

Article excerpt


The article begins by noting a 20-year emphasis on integrating complementary communication intervention processes. The Comprehensive Conflict Coaching model presented is overviewed along with a range of dialogue and facilitation processes. Opportunities are presented to integrate conflict coaching, facilitative-coaching, and dialogue-facilitation while respecting important distinctions. The article ends with a call to further clarify various theory, research, and application issues by continuing to recognize the delineation of facilitation from other facilitative practices, as established by facilitators such as Schwarz (2002) and Hunter (2007).


communication, conflict coaching, dialogue, facilitation, training and development


Over the last 20 years, the integration of complementary communication interventions has been well-established in the organizational dispute systems literature (Ury, Brett, & Goldberg, 1988; Costantino & Merchant, 1996; Slaikeu & Hasson, 1998; Lipsky, Seeber, & Fincher, 2003). The concern with integrating interventions has, at times, specifically focused on dialogue and facilitation efforts. Wade (2004) acknowledged that including an additional third party and separating and making the roles and responsibilities transparent can enhance the overall results of complex dialogue. In reporting on the considerable conflict resolution skills and techniques that are required in managing a large-scale construction project involving public and private partnerships, Anderson and Polkinghorne (2008) reinforced the call of Mayer (2004) and Jones and Brinkert (2008) for making greater use of modified roles as well as new and hybrid processes. This article explores some possibilities for strengthening dialogue and facilitation work by pairing it with the use of conflict coaching, specifically the Comprehensive Conflict Coaching Model (Brinkert, 2006; Jones and Brinkert, 2008). The article provides some background on conflict coaching, and acknowledges the diversity of approaches to dialogue and facilitation, before pointing out some of the opportunities as well as highlighting some of the issues requiring caution and further examination. In particular, the distinction between facilitation and other facilitative processes, as articulated by Schwarz (2002) and Hunter (2007), is emphasized as a way to best serve participants. The author draws on training and work as a communication scholar as well as experience as a conflict resolution coach and facilitator.

A Note on Terminology. "Dialogue-facilitation" is used to refer to group dialogue and group facilitation approaches in general. "Facilitator" is used to refer a person leading a dialogue-facilitation process. "Client" is used in the Background on Conflict Coaching section to refer to the person receiving coaching. "Participant" is used elsewhere in the article to refer to someone other than a facilitator who is a member of a dialogue-facilitation group process and/or conflict coaching process.

Background on Conflict Coaching

What is Conflict Coaching?

Conflict coaching in its basic form involves a coach working one-on-one with a client to develop the client's conflict understanding, interaction strategies, and/or interaction skills (Brinkert, 2006). Conflict coaching has roots in the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and Executive Coaching (EC) fields (Brinkert, 2006). Historically, ADR has been most closely associated with the increased use of mediation and arbitration. A one-on-one process was first proposed in the ADR field for instances when one or more parties were unwilling to use mediation (Tidwell, 1997). EC has strong connections to human resource development as well as other disciplines. EC fosters a broad range of organizational leadership competencies in a one-on-one coach-client format. In the executive coaching field, coaching on the topic of conflict has emerged as it has been increasingly recognized that working through conflict is an important leadership competency (Kilburg, 2000; Runde & Flanagan, 2006). …

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