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The Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0004 | June 5, 2001

 

 

Intervention Skill

Embrace and Resolve Conflict 
Conflict is a sign that the group is moving deeper and can be used as a seed for transformation.

 

 

The Point?

Conflict is a natural stage of a group process. But most of us have been taught to avoid conflict and so when we encounter it in groups, we retreat to the safety of shallow relationships with one another. Conflict is often a healthy sign that participants are getting "real" with one another. Its effective resolution results in increased intimacy and trust, which equates to superior group performance. 

It takes a fair degree of intestinal fortitude to walk through the fire of conflict To skillfully make this journey, you as a facilitator must have developed, to some degree, the "self-mastery" skills we present throughout this journal, so that you can walk "through" the conflict with the group and not retreat!

Now with that said, a lot of conflict can be avoided by attending to ground rules, using effective decision-making processes, and good record keeping. But when it does occur, intervene immediately so that it doesn't escalate to the point that it compromises the fabric of the group.

 

 

Example

Most conflict is the result of inaccurate assumptions made by the conflicting parties. Your job as facilitator is to uncover these assumptions while maintaining an atmosphere of respect.

Let's say you're facilitating a working group and Sally is mad at Joe because she doesn't feel he's pulling his weight. The first step in resolving conflict is to get consent from the parties involved to work through it. You ask, "Sally and Joe, would you be willing to work this issue through with our support right now?" If they agree, get each of them in turn to explain their perspective, assumptions, and feelings, without blaming the other. 

Since emotions are usually charged during conflict, the challenge for you will be to get each side to stay with the facts, to own their own feelings around the history of the conflict, and to hear each other. When you get to the bottom of most conflicts, you'll usually find that both sides want something or have something in common that can form the beginning of an understanding between them. Getting them to break through the emotion to get to this place and to hear the perspective of the other side will be your task.

Things to keep in mind: trust that the parties involved can work through the conflict, maintain mutual respect between conflicting parties, facilitate ownership language, make sure everything is spoken and heard by each party, have each party make requests of the other, then check for resolution.

 

 

Action

The next time you are faced with a conflict either in a one-on-one relationship or in a group, seek to objectively hear the information that the other party is conveying, underneath any emotion that is present. Ask questions to uncover all the facts before resorting to "stating your case." Let go of the need to be right and instead, embrace the desire to "understand" the other. In Steven Covey's words, "Seek first to understand, then be understood." This approach will go a long way in resolving or avoiding conflict all together.

I'm interested in hearing about your experience. Please email me your thoughts, stories, and experiences on this issue.

 

 

Skill-Related Resource
The Magic of Conflict, by Thomas F. Crum
This set of simple techniques, including meditation, breathing exercises, openness, and play--Aiki--leads gently to a reordered state of mind. From overcoming apathy to understanding how conflict doesn't have to mean contest, Aiki turns mind-body integration principles into powerful tools. You might also find The Magic of Conflict Workbook helpful. 

 

 

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Reader Survey 

Creating Dialogue With Our Readers

In an effort to stimulate discussion on facilitation tips, tools, and processes that are relevant to your interests, we'd like to hear from you. Please post your answers to the following question at on our interactive forum to stimulate discussion on this topic.


1. What is your biggest challenge in dealing with conflict?

2. Please share a personal story or situation involving conflict that's either still ongoing or already resolved.


Other questions or comments? Please email us.

 

 

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Thank you for reading this issue of the Master Facilitator Journal.  Look for your next issue on June 12, 2001.  

 

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