“I observed my colleagues arguing and it seemed as though they wanted to resolve matters, but didn’t know how. They would stop… continue; they got nowhere in terms of solutions. Could I have helped if I got involved, or made matters worse by interfering?”
Ooo… juicy office conflict! I say, when there are no disagreements, someone isn’t thinking. That’s my frame about conflict – it can be a totally positive, totally creative experience. Not everyone will agree with me, though, preferring to toe the line. The best way to decide if you would get involved or not, is to determine your level of rapport with those guys. How well do you know them, how much do they trust you.
If high, you can facilitate and there are several models for this. One way is to help define the problem. A well-defined problem is a problem half-solved. Or use the STEM technique: S is about getting specific (what’s the problem) T is for thoughts (what do you think?) E = effect or emotions (when I hear that I feel…) M is for move forward (what needs to happen so we can go forward?) Get both parties to identify and agree to what must STOP, what must START, and what they’d both like to see CONTINUE.
Sometimes, the best way to help a friend is just to be there for them. It isn’t often that people really need help, I don’t think. My motto is, “People are completely capable of taking care of themselves.” So I’d leave them to it (unless my help was particularly solicited) and let them know in as many ways as possible, what kind of a colleague and friend I am.