How do we approach a conflict scenario when the odds seem stacked against us? This imbalance can seem most plain when a person with apparent wealth sits across from someone with few financial resources. In this scenario, as often plays out in the courts, those with the most money to throw behind the situation have the best odds of success. What happens when the scales seem balanced, and two individuals of similar class and position are divided over an issue? Who prevails, then?

Possessions are not always the clearest determiner of success, nor should they be. But many more elements deserve consideration when looking to heal the divide or at least help chart a path forward. When two seemingly matched opponents sit across from each other, some may have resources beyond the material, which can cause the circumstances to lean in their favor. A well-connected person may have access to people in positions of authority to help create or alleviate pressure. In contrast, a real estate agent might have inside information to take advantage of an issue surrounding contested property.

It’s essential for conflict resolution professionals, at least through the understanding-based approach, not to look at a conflict scenario as a battle between two people but as an opportunity to potentially bring two parties together to facilitate a mutually beneficial outcome. But before we get to where we can help shift the paradigm from contest to collaboration, we must address the dynamics already in play when we enter the room. There are elements to consider that surround people, which create friction, distance, or an unwillingness to be open due to an outsized belief that resources are waiting to be drawn upon, which can force the other side to capitulate.

As the third party, we must identify and bring awareness to these influences while looking for ways to deconstruct or diffuse their power – or the looming impression of them, to create a space that is open and accessible for both sides, no matter their background, access to experts or financial resources, or knowledge in a particular area. These imbalances won’t cease to be a factor. Still, by addressing their existence and acknowledging their influence, whether realized or not, we can help bring about awareness and understanding that helps form the beginning of an honest and open conversation – the first steps toward reaching an agreement.

Join Katherine Miller and Gary Friedman on April 18th to learn what we, as conflict professionals, can do to create balance, ensure active, meaningful participation in the process, and promote developments that serve both parties.