The exercise of compassionate action can help the Ombuds more effectively serve those visiting the Ombuds’ office. Compassion is a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. Compassionate action is taking personal responsibility for alleviating and preventing the suffering of others. A new and compassionate approach — the Integrative Conflict Management Model (ICM2) — can be applied to more effectively assist visitors to come to a fair and meaningful resolution with the issues they face. The ICM2 treats unhealthy conflict as a “thought-borne pathogen” — a destructive neurological transaction arising from an experience of power depravation. Built on a public health foundation, this approach examines the nature of healthy, benign, and unhealthy power; ways to replace unhealthy expressions (demeaning others, taking a victim role, resorting to accusation, etc.) and replacing those with healthy expressions (value as part of the university or college community, belonging, respectful listening to concerns, etc.).The model compassionately portrays each visitor as a person living in a unique “construct” — a way of seeing themselves, their role within the institution, and their place in the world. This identity is formed by their experience, beliefs, and environment. Everyone’s construct is influenced by the economics, religion, media, education, peers, family, and other life elements to which they are exposed. By respecting and understanding the visitor’s reality, the Ombuds can provide alternatives and guidance to assist the visitor in meeting the challenges that have brought the visitor to the Ombuds office. There are a number of ICM2 techniques that the Ombuds can employ while working with visitors, including decreasing or eliminating the objectification of others and identifying key power depravation issues. One of the most effective ways resides in how the Ombuds responds to the visitor: the ICM2 includes a simple protocol that can be of value. This protocol is often referred to as the “Five P’s:”
1. Pause — See if and how you (the Ombuds) are affected by the conflict issue.
2. Presentation — Frame those involved as presenting with symptoms, rather than viewing them through a moral (right/wrong) lens. This is at the compassionate heart of the approach.
3. Power Issue — Unhealthy conflict emerges from an experience of loss of power. Identify the power issue.
4. Power Swap — Support replacing unhealthy conflict (unhealthy power) with healthy power by mirroring positive power that the visitor possesses but has discounted or failed to see.
5. Power Infusion — Assist the visitor to create a continuing experience of power (by listening, caring, acknowledging, reframing, illustrating by example, etc.).Effective application of the ICM2 can increase the level of loyalty of those visiting the Ombuds, recognition that the college or university is committed to the well-being of its people, and the visitor’s productivity, creativity, and innovation.