Group projects got you down?

Lindsay Stitt

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As university students, we often deal with conflict. We might disagree with our group members about the best way to do a project, fight with our neighbour-in-residence about keeping the noise down, or argue with friends, partners, and family members. Conflict is inevitable, but I don’t think that means it cannot be improved.

I find that when I am in a dispute, I often have trouble seeing beyond my own position. For example, if I am arguing with a group member about whether to include particular research in our group project, I might see it as a firm yes, and my partner might see it as a firm no.

However, when I start to look at my interestsrather than just my positionit helps resolve the conflict. While my position is my stance on an issue, my interests explain why that position is so important to me. For example, if my position is that I want the extra research included, my interest might be that I spent a lot of time doing the research and I don’t want it to go to waste, or that I believe the extra research will help our group earn a better mark.

From my experience, once I start understanding why someone is holding a specific position, it becomes easier to brainstorm creative solutions to the issue that could satisfy both of our interests. In positional bargaining, one side wins and the other losesbut when focusing on interests, it seems to be more likely that both sides can walk away happy with the outcome.

I’m not saying that it is easy to solve arguments once you discover both sides’ interests. However, it is a useful first step in helping to eliminate conflict, and it increases the likelihood that both parties can get what they want.


The Osgoode Mediation Clinic works with York students to help identify interests in order to resolve disputes. Students do not need to have contentious disputes for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to be beneficial. If you have any further questions about ADR or mediation, feel free to contact Osgoode’s Mediation Clinic at MediationClinicCampusDivision@gmail.com.

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