Reciprocal Sovereignty: Resolving Conflicts Respectfully, By Tony Roffers

by | Nov 5, 2019 | Featured Article | 0 comments

Welcome to Authors Lounge! I grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota and attended the public schools from kindergarten through the PhD. Straight through, didn’t miss a semester. I sang in choirs at church and in high school and received an all-conference reward as a high school basketball player. I went to college on a basketball scholarship at Augsburg College before transferring to the University of Minnesota for my bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees.

It will be useful for you to know that while I was growing up I never once witnessed my parents fighting or disagreeing with each other. My speculation is that they had an agreement that they would never argue or fight in front of me and my two older sisters. As a result, I was quite shocked whenever I experienced people later in my life arguing or fighting. This somehow created a fear of conflict within me. I avoided it at all cost. I deferred, acquiesced, capitulated, withdrew from any potentially controversial issue. I had an allergy to conflict.

I started my career at the University of California at Berkeley as a Counseling Psychologist and taught on the faculty there and at San Francisco State University culminated my academic career as a Full Professor at Saint Mary’s College of California. I trained hundreds of Master’s and Doctoral level counselors and Therapists over the years and am now quietly pursuing a private practice as a therapist in Oakland California.

As part of my practice I saw a number of couples who were having marital problems and I developed a conflict resolution model to help them resolve their conflicts in a mutually respectful manner.

In my work as a therapist as well as a faculty member that trained beginning therapists I became aware of how often people did not understand one another. They were either not clear and specific in their communication or they were so engrossed in their own thoughts and opinions that they could not truly be open to  hearing and understanding the other person. The solution often revealed itself once they listened to the other person with the intention of paraphrasing what the other person said until that person acknowledged that they felt understood. This is often referred to as empathy. The magic comes when each person is willing to demonstrate their understanding the other’s differing points of view before they come from their own frame of reference.

Demonstrating understand of someone is not necessarily agreeing with them. Once a couple demonstrates their accurate understanding of one another the conflict sometimes resolves itself because there was a miscommunication or misunderstanding. If there is still disagreement each person is asked to share if there is anything they can agree with regarding the other person’s point of view even if it is just a small part. This demonstrates to the other person that there partner does not disagree with everything. It tends to partially soften the disagreement as well as the harshness of the mood between them.

The next step is for each partner to share ideas of how they could either solve the remaining parts of the disagreement and then explore ways to combine their ideas to come up with a solution in a respectful and collaborative way. This often results in a compromise both partners are willing to accept. Sometimes, when both partners are feeling less adversarial they can be creative enough to come to a resolution that they are both totally satisfied with and the don’t need to find a compromise.

A group of seven attorney mediators learned of my model and asked to be trained in its use with their clients who were in a divorce process. We adapted my model and came up with a method that proved helpful for both couples who wanted to improve their relationship as well as couples who wanted to divorce in a collaborative rather than an adversarial manner. It is worth noting that some of the couples who were in the divorce process changed their minds once they learned how to resolve their conflicts using the collaborative model.

The book is entitled Reciprocal Sovereignty: Resolving Conflicts Collaboratively. You can purchase the book on and you are welcome to go onto my website at . I wish to thank ReadersMagnet for promoting my book through the Authors’ Lounge.


Reciprocal Sovereignty: Resolving Conflicts Respectfully, by Tony Roffers, PhD, describes a communication skills model that marriage counselors, attorney mediators, relationship coaches, and corporate managers can use to structure a conflict resolution process that really works for the people they serve. The Model, called the B-E-A-R Process (Breathe, Empathize, Acknowledge, Respond), provides a step by step sequence that can be used directly by anyone who wishes to improve how they resolve their differences collaboratively while maintaining control of their upsetting emotions. The B-E-A-R Process empowers those who use it by requiring each party to express their point of view respectfully and to listen carefully in order to demonstrate their understanding of the other’s perspective even though they may disagree. Whether facilitated by a professional or not the process minimizes emotional volatility and balances any power differentials between the parties while maximizing their willingness to implement their agreements.


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