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New for you: an easy way to learn about managing difficult situations and conflict in groups. Listen at home or in the car to Great Meetings! Great Results CDs:

Queasy About Conflict -- an hour-long interview with Dee and Pam on defusing conflict in groups.

Putting out Brush Fires --
a 5 CD set of 5 hour-long teleclasses on how to intervene in difficult situations. It comes with a downloadable workbook.

Click here to purchase the CDs or to learn more about how Dee and Pam can help you create Great Meetings with Great Results!


Managing Conflict in Groups


Conflict is a natural part of any group's experience.

Some conflicts are preventable. Preparing adequately; bringing the right materials to the meeting; and establishing roles, responsibilities, ground rules, expected outcomes, and decision making methods all will help avoid unnecessary conflict.

Other conflicts are important to the group's work. Handled well, those conflicts can clarify differences, increase the creativity of the group, and produce better results.

However, if a conflict is ignored, it can be damaging to the productivity and coherence of the group.

Conflict is defined as a problem that evokes strong feelings. Our tendency is to dismiss the feelings. However, listening carefully and, when appropriate, acknowledging the emotion, is a necessary first step before you get to problem solving.

For example:

The Drama Club advisor is meeting with students to make a decision about the final play of the season. While the group is discussing three possible plays, Johanna shouts out: " I am really ticked off about this process."

The advisor, realizing that this burst of feeling probably indicates conflict, asks Johanna to talk about the problem. After listening carefully, the advisor tentatively summarizes what he hears as the problem: "Johanna, do I understand correctly that you are upset because all of these plays call for small casts and we have lots of people who want to be in the plays?"

If she confirms that as her concern, the advisor then asks the other students what they think about the issue.

After others have spoken, the advisor summarizes: "The issues seem to be that we want to perform a quality play with as large a cast as possible. Is that correct?"

Key Points To Take Away

--- Some conflicts are preventable; others are an important part of the group process.
--- Conflict is made up of a problem plus emotion; therefore, tend the feelings as well as the problem to resolve conflict.
--- When a conflict emerges, remember to listen, summarize, seek common ground, and then focus on problem solving.


By giving participants time to state their concerns, the group can now focus on problem solving rather than on managing anger.

The key steps in managing a conflict are:

  • Give group members uninterrupted time to share their points of view and feelings.
  • Summarize the issues.
  • Identify common ground when it exists.
  • Move on to problem solving.

For more information about managing group conflict during meetings, order your copy of Great Meetings! Great Results today.

NEXT WEEK IN GREAT MEETINGS: Intervening in non-productive individual situations.

About Great Meetings

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' experience facilitating change and training meeting leaders.

Learn more by clicking the links below:

* Read biographies
Learn about Pam and Dee.

* Read a "backgrounder"
What will you learn from this series?

* See the Great Meetings archive
See past articles in the series.

* Visit the Great Meetings Web site
Learn about the book, training workshops Pam and Dee offer, and more.

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