Group conflict is one of the challenges that facilitator often faces.

From my experience, group conflict will appear in two forms. One is that you know there is group conflict before you step into the meeting room. This is good because you will be prepared for it. The other is that you don’t know in advance, and group conflict emerges during the process. In this article we are focusing on how to manage the second situation.

In a way, facilitation is like improvisation. No matter how much we prepare, unexpected things will always happen during the process. Let us use several concepts of improv to see if there is a way to deal with it:

• Be present.
Be present means you must be aware. Focus on the group mode rather than the process. What are people talking about, what are they questioning, and why are these questions being raised? Are they aimed at things? Is it against people? What are the assumptions behind these questions?
When team conflict arises, be aware of, stop, and use clarifying questions to make the entire group aware of what has happened and find real problems. You can ask “I don’t quite understand what’s going on here?” “I’m a little confused because I see…”

• Let it go.
Don’t try to control when group conflict arises, but let it go, just like the best way when a car is slipping on a snowy road is to release the steering wheel. Group conflict is the group’s own business. They will figure out how to deal with it eventually. Sometimes this conflict is resolved in peculiar ways. For instance, I have encountered people who questioned others loudly showed their appreciation at the end because they felt being heard and seen. As facilitator, we can create a space and container for the group, release the energy, then let it go.

• Yes, and.
Maybe you will ask: What should we do if the group is in an argument and unwilling to let it go? Let’s look at this one: yes, and. “Yes, and” has its original meaning: accept the ideas, then build on top of them. “Yes, and” has another meaning: how to use existing resources to solve problems. Let’s try to use the current situation of the group as a resource whatever the situation is. How can we use this resource to move the group forward? When we change our perspective, we no longer see group conflict as an obstacle, but as a resource. Change will happen.

The group conflicts will bring pressure to the facilitator. No matter how much preparation you have made in advance, let us try to be more present.

Say “Good job!” to yourself when you see group conflict emerging. the job of the facilitator is to make the invisible become visible, right?

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