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Queasy About Conflict -- an hour-long interview with Dee and Pam on defusing conflict in groups.
Putting out Brush Fires --
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An attentive facilitator will sometimes sense agreement building in a meeting before group members sense it. When you get such a sense, it is often a good idea to take time to reflect back your "sense of the group." If you take time to summarize what you are hearing, you will often help the group come to a decision.
Here's an example of how this concept of "sense of the group" might work in your school. This scenario will illustrate how the "sense of the group" technique offers an informal and quick way to help a group come to a conclusion
Picture yourself facilitating a meeting of the students who run the school newspaper. They are discussing how they can balance the content of the newspaper to reflect the diverse activities and issues of the school. Several students say the newspaper should report on everything from the math club to the cheerleaders, the new curriculum to the principal's new car. Others argue that the student body just wants to know how the sports teams are doing and that it is too much work to cover everything.
--- Listen intently to each individual; also listen for any
agreement that is building in the group.
--- Don't let your own opinions influence your summary of the
sense of the group.
--- Remember to check your summary with the group.
--- Be open to making changes to your summary in response to
the group's input and reaction.
As the discussion moderator, you listen intently to everyone. You take note of the different opinions you hear. You notice that everyone has spoken at least once, and there aren't any new ideas coming out. You can, however, sense that there is some agreement in the group. Students seem eager to maintain regular reporting on sports; in addition, most feel they should seek out stories about other activities or issues. You also sense that students are willing to be assigned to different areas, but they want a variety of assignments
Before sharing your "sense of the group." the first thing you need to do is to doublecheck your thoughts to make sure your personal opinions aren't coloring your summary. With that check done, reflect your sense of the group back to everyone. Then verify that your sense of the group is accurate. Group members might agree, or they may want to amend your summary. Once the group is comfortable with the summary, record the agreement.
For more information about the "sense of the group" technique and other techniques for coming to group consensus, order your copy of Great Meetings! Great Results today.
NEXT WEEK IN GREAT MEETINGS: Long-range planning.
Pam Plumb and Dee Kelsey are your facilitators in charge of
Education World's Great Meetings series. They are also authors
of the popular guide to meeting facilitation, Great Meetings!
Great Results. Together, Pam and Dee have more than 40 years'
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