Facilitating conversations between individuals is an important service provided by the Office of the Ombudsperson. It is free of charge and available to students, staff, and faculty upon request. Individual facilitation is a voluntary process in which one or more impartial person(s), the Ombudsperson(s), facilitate communication between/among parties in conflict. We do not make decisions on the substance of the matter, only the parties do.
Why use facilitation in this way?
Because it works. Parties entering the meeting in good faith are successful on average about 80 percent of the time in finding an agreement they can live with. In many cases, the process serves to mend relationships that have been damaged by a conflict. The process is a fast, informal, and confidential way of solving interpersonal issues.
Steps for Faciliated Conversations:
Introduction: The neutral third party (or Ombudsperson) sets the parties at ease and explains the ground rules. The Ombudsperson’s role is not to make a decision but to help both parties reach a mutual agreement by explaining that he/she will not take sides.
Telling the Story: Each party tells what happened. The person bringing the complaint tells his/her side of the story first. Then, the other party explains his/her version of the facts. No interruptions are allowed.
Identifying Facts and Issues: The Ombudsperson attempts to identify agreed upon facts and issues. This is done by listening to each side, summarizing each party’s views, and asking if these are the facts and issues as each party understands them.
Identifying Alternative Solutions: Everyone thinks of possible solutions to the problem. The Ombudsperson makes a list and asks each party to explain his/her feelings about each possible solution.
Revising and Discussing Solutions: Based on the expressed feelings of the parties, the Ombudsperson revises possible solutions and attempts to identify a solution to which both parties can agree.
Reaching Agreement: The Ombudsperson helps the parties to reach an agreement with which both can live. The parties should also discuss what will happen if either of them breaks the agreement.