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COOCEOO – (pronounced “Koocheeo)

Effective conflict managers respect and honor differences. Learning how to interact so that we can honor differences of opinion, style, beliefs, values, perceptions, needs, understanding, or rationale becomes critical to an effective and honorable life. In fact, when we disrespect others or inadvertently place them in an adversarial role by being unaware of our impact, force, limiting influence, or timing, we encourage needless conflict and often cause psychological injury. As a result we waste our time and the time of our “conflict partners” – the people with whom we are trying to productively engage.

Just as importantly, psychological injuries feed a self-perpetuating cycle between us and others resulting in disharmony and imbalance in relationships and social groups. Poor interactive skills that place “the other” in adversarial positioning are the cause of a substantial number of detrimental cycles of behavior. A more respectful interactive skillset that counters these cycles and enables effective interaction can be utilized by establishing rules of interaction that maintain respect, honor differences, and protect participants from limiting each other, while preventing back-and-forth sparring and adversarial posturing.

One central theme that accomplishes these simple but often difficult to attain guidelines is to “Create Options, Offer Choices, and in so doing Empower Others and Ourselves.” Hence the acronym “COOCEOO”, pronounced “Koocheeo”.

COOCEOO can be the ABC’s of interactive skills as it provides an (A)nalytical tool, a (B)ehavioral tool, and a (C)ommunication tool. In attempting to analyze a situation for conflict, you can ask whether or not the participants created options for “the other”. Did the partner’s (B)ehavior limit or create options for “the other”. And did the (C)ommunication reflect that options were being created or limited. For example, in a simple exchange to a co-worker asking for feedback about a recently prepared memo, Marly, a co-worker might say, “Hi Sue, could you look at this memo?”. Sue, who is late for a meeting, picks up the memo, immediately notices a misspelling, and hands it back saying, “Ther-rapy is spelled wrong.”, not realizing that she has just insulted Marly, who feels she has spent unappreciated hours on the graphics and collecting the “send-to” list.

Instead of this result, if Marly had utilized Cooceoo, she might have asked Sue, “Is it possible for you to look at this memo now?” And Sue might have responded, “It would be better if I could review it this afternoon. Would that be okay with you?” With this option-creating framework and mindset, conflict is less easily introduced in interactions, and it is more easily de-escalated.

Daniel Dana Ph.D., a reknowned author on conflict describes conflicts in three escalating stages; blips, clashes, and crisis. By creating options, we can prevent blips from becoming clashes, and prevent clashes from becoming crisis. Just as importantly, we can utilize option creation to de-escalate crisis to clashes, clashes to blips, and blips to comfortable, productive exchanges.

Using COOCEOO as a guideline, one is able to react in conversation more cohesively with peers, plan strategically for a better result, and make more integrated decisions through mutually beneficial behaviors. Conversely, when one does not utilize guidelines such as these, and instead when one acts as most people in conflict unwittingly do, by intentionally or unintentionally attempting to limit options, deny choice, and disempower others, one subsequently disempowers not only others but themselves.

Thus by Creating Options, Offering Choices, we empower first others, and then ourselves by the very process of our interactions. Further, this method focuses on acknowledging and understanding the other’s “space” apart from our own “space”, thereby laying the groundwork for future understanding and relationship-building.

So in order to be productive, remember COOCEOO (Create Options, Offer Choices, and Empower Others and Ourselves) to keep your options open and help others do the same. I believe it is a gift worth giving.