DESC Scripting and Conflict Resolution

I’ve recently come into a major upgrade in duties at my job, which has always been heavy on the Human Resources responsibilities. As it is, not only am I supervising several subordinates locally, I am also the clearing house for supervisory advice and information for our many-dozen affiliates all across the nation; like the surgeon general is to doctors. Because of that, I find myself often intently reading HR manuals, strategic planning frameworks and, like today, conflict resolution.

Today I was leafing through the relatively good “How to Be a Better Supervisor” that was produced by the National Crime Prevention Council (the McGruff people) specifically for AmeriCorps (which is convenient considering that’s what I primarily deal with). I was clued into the publication by my friend and fellow nonprofit technologist Felicia Sullivan.

Most of this stuff is Communications 101. In other words, it’s that type of common sense that isn’t as common as you’d like it to be. Beyond that, and perhaps more importantly, it creates a framework and vocabulary for describing common sense in order for it to be more easily remembered, analyzed and communicated.

So the nice piece of common sense I ran across today was DESC Scripting, which was developed by Sharon and Gordon Bower.

One of many, many acronyms, DESC Scripting is a four step approach used to effect a change in behavior. I’ve also seen it called the DESC Model. It is (somewhat paraphrased):

  1. Describe the actions or behavior that you see as taking place;
  2. Express why that behavior is an issue?
  3. Specify the resulting actions or change of behavior you would like to effect;
  4. Clarify the consequences for failing to change behavior or meet demands.

It’s a rather good model for dealing with issues as they come up, mostly because it isn’t overly complicated or far outside the norm of typical interactions—no one could claim you didn’t deal with an issue.

Not to be meta about conflict resolution, I do have a critique of it: as acronyms go, it’s pretty lousy. The four acronym forming words have very similar definitions and in fact the meaning of the statement is defined in the words that follow—not merely expanded upon. In light of that, I propose the IRCC script:

  1. Issue: Describe the actions or behavior that you see are taking place.
  2. Result: Why are those actions or that behavior an issue?
  3. Correction: What are the resulting actions or change of behavior you would like to effect?
  4. Consequences: What happens if the actions or behavior changes aren’t met?

Of course, the issue with that is the double Cs at the end, but I’m open to suggestions (maybe later I’ll get into Conflict Resolution styles.)

More Info:

A BBC’s h2g2 has a good write-up on DESC Scripting and techniques for being more assertive.


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