Any time you need to guide a major change or help others resolve a conflict, you have the potential to make one or more people very unhappy. This is true whether you’re negotiating a business contract, selecting a new department manager, cutting your operating budget, or resolving differences within your executive team. In each of these situations, one person or group may end up praising you while another is grumbling behind your back … if not to your face.
Having mediated hundreds of legal, business, and organizational disputes, I’ve found that I am far more likely to end up with satisfied people on all sides if I make a concerted effort to provide everyone with the “Three P’s of Satisfaction.”
- Process satisfaction requires a fair, orderly, and even-handed process where everyone feels that they’ve had a reasonable opportunity to present their side of the matter (1 Cor. 14:40). This requires that everyone is given all the time they need to prepare and present their thoughts. When you ask, “Is there anything else anyone would like to say,” you want everyone to respond, “No, I’ve shared everything I see as being relevant; thank you for hearing me out.”
- Personal satisfaction requires treating everyone with respect, courtesy, and equality, just as you would want to be treated yourself (Matt. 7:12, James 2:1-4). This kind of treatment involves careful listening, genuine empathy, and gracious communication (Prov. 22:11).
- Product satisfaction requires a final agreement or decision that is as reasonable, just and equitable as is humanly possible (Micah 6:8; Prov. 28:5).
Here’s the key to this process: although most people involved in a decision-making (or conflict-resolving) process will focus most of their energy on achieving a particular outcome (product satisfaction), in the long run they will also place a great deal of value on how they were treated during the process.
This means that even if a final decision is not entirely to their liking, they will often accept the result with equanimity if the decision-makers provided them with a high level of both process and personal satisfaction.
I cannot emphasize this point too much: Give people process satisfaction (the opportunity to fully and candidly share their views) as well as personal satisfaction (treating them with sincere courtesy and respect), and you’ll be surprised how content they’ll be even if they disagree with your substantive decision.
And if you succeed in giving people all three types of satisfaction, you’ll find that they will trust and respect you more, and genuinely support the decisions you make.
By the way … the Three P’s of Satisfaction are fully transferable: they work just as well at home and in church as they do at the office.
So whether you’re dealing with a corporate issue, a marriage conflict, a debate with your teenager, or differing positions at an elders’ meeting, you’ll be far more likely to preserve respect, unity, and relationships if you make every reasonable effort to provide everyone involved with process, personal, and product satisfaction.
Ken Sande is the founder of Peacemaker Ministries and Relational Wisdom 360 and the author of numerous books on biblical conflict resolution, including The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict.