An ongoing disagreement, or a long lasting conflict between two people, can often be resolved by taking the discussion to a higher logical level. This technique uses logical levels to facilitate agreements. It can be useful in mediation and with groups.
Elicit meta-model information.
The following elements of questioning will help you create a meta-model of each party’s position, as well as to get the information you need in order to pace them and develop the rapport that you will need as a credible change agent.
a. Ask each person to boil down their argument to the outcomes that they desire.
b. Have them specify the values and beliefs underlying the outcome.
c. Ask what is most important and valuable about those values and beliefs.
d. Ask any additional questions that will help create a well-formed meta-model.
Identify higher logical level elements of the arguments, and reflect this.
a. Notice the elements that their arguments have in common, and identify which of those occur at higher logical levels (see the appendix).
b. State their positions in terms of their higher level agreements.
c. See if you or the other parties can propose a solution that everyone can agree on.
If this is not yet possible, elicit a more productive state and move to higher-level motivations.
If it is too soon for such an agreement, consider the following:
The more high-level agreements that you have brought to their attention, the smaller their disagreements will appear to them. The more you emphasize their most mature, intelligent agreements, the more you will be priming a mature, intelligent state for them to draw upon in resolving the problem. Help them come up with potential solutions by drawing upon these resources. Appeal to commonalties at a higher level than the one you previously appealed to in step two.
Get clear expressions of these higher outcomes from the parties.
Have the parties express their meta-outcomes, that is, outcomes at a higher level than the ones specified. This process was started in step one, but was not made into detailed outcomes.
Confirm agreements that exist at higher levels, establishing a Yes set. Again, seek to resolve the conflict.
Get everyone into a yes set, continuously confirming agreements at these higher levels. When possible, seek specific agreements that will resolve the conflictY
Follow up as needed.
Once you have achieved an agreement, follow up to see that it is working out. You can establish a timeline for follow up with the parties involved.