How to Tactfully Manage Conflicts in Meetings

Group of Business People Meeting


Conflict is a natural part of life and is an environment where mutual trust prevails. It can be said as a positive force that encourage people find creative solutions, enhance the involvement of participants and strengthen the relationships. However, there is a negative side of conflict that diverts the energy from group and creates distrust. Many of us can see there is an increased tension due to conflicts in meetings. Conflicts in meetings are very common, and it is very important to manage or avoid conflicts in meetings.

Conflicts in meetings can be exciting, but at times can hurt the progress and morale of the team. One can avoid conflicts and achieve positive relationships more readily by following simple guidelines. Though it is difficult to prevent conflicts in meetings, one can do a lot to stop disagreements from damaging the key objectives of the team. Below are some ways that help you manage conflict and resolve the conflict when required.

How to Reduce the Chances of Conflict?

The best way to get rid of conflict in meeting is preparing well in advance and chairing strongly during the meeting. If you develop the reputation of conducting strict meetings, there is less chance that individuals who attend the meeting will try to pursue their own agenda. Send out the agenda of meeting in advance and ask the group to agree to it prior to the beginning of meeting. A good agenda makes it easier to identify that the group is going off course, in case of any conflict. If the people agree to the goals of meeting, then the interruptions that lead to conflicts may not arise.

As a strong chairperson, you should be alert at meetings where the dynamics of people involved give rise to conflicts. In such situations, it is better to state the meeting rules in advance. For instance, the rules of meeting can be as follows –

  • Participants should raise their hands before they speak. At a time, only one person should speak.
  • The chairperson must summarize the key points in such a way that every participant should be able to understand them easily.
  • Every participant should be invited to contribute, so that a single person cannot take over the discussion or dominate others.

Tips to Navigate Your Way through Conflict

Many people prefer to ignore conflicts and push towards a speedy conclusion. Those who dismiss conflicts and ignore the impacts do so at their own risk. Here are some tips that help you anticipate and work through differences of opinion by having an impactful conversation.

Tip 1

Identify key areas of conflict that obstruct the progress of the meeting. You should think about what is best for your business as well as the individuals. You should get answers to questions such as – whose interest might be competing. What organizational dynamics represent the hidden things? What are the historical conflicts that still exist? And so on.

Tip 2

Get into depth to find out more. Confronting people during open meeting should be avoided to ferret out the thoughts that cause conflict. Keep asking probing questions till the person gives best insight. Avoid putting others in defensive by using provoking language.

Tip 3

Try to speak about the conflicts upfront in a plain way and make sure that everyone acknowledges it on the table. State the conflicts that you know and put them in writing. This helps people to refer them throughout the meeting and avoid them. Seek validation that you have described the conflicts and ask for required help.

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Tip 4

Take enough time for a meaningful dialogue. If you don’t have time on a particular day, then you can reschedule meeting when you have time. You might allocate time for the required discussions and set up a follow-on meeting for making decisions. The fastest way to lose credibility is to ask people for their opinions and give them enough time to express their views.

Tip 5

State the ground rules in advance and get prepared in advance to implement them effectively. Offer some ground rules and solicit ideas from other people. Give a fair chance to the participants to express their opinions and don’t take it personally when people are unhappy. You need to acknowledge disagreement and arrange a different meeting to address the issue.

Tip 6

Agree on decision making process and don’t wait till the end of meeting. People may be worn out to make intelligent decisions. Ensure that everybody know the answers to the questions in advance prior to the meeting. Get answers to questions such as – who will make decisions? Do the decisions need to be made today? How can we solicit additional input? And so on.

Tip 7

Decide when and how to intervene. Some of the reasons might make sense such as – several people go silent, comments become personal tasks, people expressing strong opinions etc.

By following the above tips one can surely avoid conflicts in meeting. Acknowledge everyone that how difficult it is for someone to disagree, especially when doing so might make people angry. Summarize how hearing different perspectives will help the group come with a better solution.

Conflict can be a quickest and best way to make creative progress, as everyone in the meeting doesn’t want to say yes without proper discussion. It is not the thing that should be avoided at all costs. The best way is to avoid conflicts to some extent and avoid stressful situations. If you really want to avoid conflicts, you should prepare well in advance, by considering all the factors.

To Sum Up

It is important to make sure that you reach the expectations that match what the group is capable of handling. Guide people in such a way that they get back to rational thinking and focus on their problem solving skills. You can watch the body language of participants and consider a brief questioning session to reduce tension in participants who show signs of anger. Ask the participants to clearly state their issues and problems. This may not only help you prevent a conflict, but brings clarity to the situation.

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