Whenever there is conflict during a meeting, it is incumbent upon the meeting chair to resolve it in a fair, consistent, and appropriate manner in order for a proper result to be achieved. The following strategies will offer you a variety of options which can be exercised to gain consensus in any situation.
- Identify Areas of Agreement
Those would be the ideas which all members can support.
2. Take a Straw Vote
Use straw vote technique to find out just how strongly the group is polarized on areas of disagreement. This is a vote that is not binding and merely shows where people are. It is easily conducted by a show of hands.
3. Hear from Each Member
Put a 30 second, 1-minute, or 2-minute time limit on each person so that everyone can have their say. Encourage speakers not to repeat what has already been said, just say that they agree with the previous speakers.
4. Paraphrase What You Have Heard
Ask group members who are strongly opposed to each other’s position to paraphrase or summarize what they hear each other saying before disagreeing with the point. This shows respect and may give others a chance to learn more about an opposing position or point.
5. Change Sides
Ask group members who are strongly opposed to each other’s position to take each other’s side of the argument for a few minutes. Again, this shows respect and allows for a better understanding of where others may be coming from in their ideas.
6. Encourage Compromise
Ask members who are opposed to the majority view to state, “What it would take for me to be able to live with that decision.”
Consider how their concerns or suggestions could be incorporated into the outcome of the situation.
Agree that more information is needed before the decision can be made (only new information will be discussed next time).
Agree that members need to reflect on the issues and have one more round when they are feeling fresh.
Ask opposing members if they are ready to “live with” the decision and support it.
Use a majority vote to come to closure.
If you have contentious issues, allowing everyone an opportunity to have their say and respectfully listening to one another, will usually help to gain a consensus that all can abide by. Be sure to time any discussion so the meeting does not go on and on, rather you control the discussion so that a proper and acceptable conclusion can be reached. Just remember, you, the chair of the meeting much remain neutral and keep control of the process.