Anyone in Germany who has ever attented school knows about Schlichterausbildung – Conflict Resolution Training. It is a workshop in which high school students learn how to defuse and resolve conflicts peacefully, how to reach a compromise which both conflict parties can accept.
There are also Schlichter – conflice resolution experts – in the German court system, and in many public organizations. Often they handle conflicts at the national level, such as the one surrounding the total remodeling of Stuttgart’s Main Train Station.
The conflict resolution method taught in German schools has several steps: 1. Calm down the conflict parties. 2. Communicate in the first person (“I”). 3. See the conflict from the viewpoint of the other party. 4. Admit to you are a part of the conflict. 5. Look for a resolution via brainstorming. 6. Agree to the resolution. Apologize. Thank.
These straightforward steps are representative for the German need for harmony and mutual respect. Conflict is not resolved when one party gets his or her way. Instead, conflict is resolved when a compromise is found which is equitable and acceptable for both sides.
Both sides in the conflict should have the impression that their viewpoint, opinion, position have been listened to, understood, respected and considered in the resolution. This desire for harmony is in stark contrast to the cliché that Germans are authoritarian, that they rely on strict structures of hierarchy.