Facilitation Skills – How to Prevent Conflict in Groups

Using Ground rules in your facilitated workshop How can conflict be expressed? Conflict can take many forms in a group workshop. Sometimes it's clearly expressed before you even start. At other times it may be understated – but still needs to be addressed. Expressed conflict within a group can occur when there's existing disagreements or…

Using Ground rules in your facilitated workshop

How can conflict be expressed?

Conflict can take many forms in a group workshop. Sometimes it's clearly expressed before you even start. At other times it may be understated – but still needs to be addressed.

Expressed conflict within a group can occur when there's existing disagreements or tension. If you know this is the case you can prepare well in advance for the situation.

However, there is often unexpressed conflict that can occur when you're facilitating a workshop. These can occur when the group has just formed or you have not worked with them before.

Getting prepared

Either way, if you envisage some challenges in managing a group, then it may be worth setting some ground rules or a group contract. This process encourages them to set their own standards for what is expected of each other.

In an ideal world, once people have agreed to the ground rules the group should 'self-govern'. Through agreement with the ground-rules, the group will often pull any offenders into line. If they do not, a gentle reminder about the agreed ground rules can be a great tool for keeping the workshop process moving.

The basics

Check the group's background beforehand if you have not worked with them. Some may find the need for ground rules unnecessary or even an insult

If there are some 'hot topics' that are likely to get people excited, ground rules will be your friend!

Self rule

You can ask the group for suggestions. Ask how they would like to be treated through the workshop or how they would like to see the event 'unfold'.

Be aware that this can result in vague & sometimes ineffective ground-rules – you may need to have a set that you'll operate by as a bare minimum & let the group know this

Make sure that everyone actually agreements to the 'ground-rules' being proposed. A good question is, “Can we live with this?”

The 'ROPES'

One handy tool to use is called 'showing the ropes', where the forms form the ground rules for the day. By sticking to the routes, participants should agree to:

R espect – others opinions

O pen minded – be open to other peoples ideas

P articulate – in the process

E xperience – be sure to share what they have

S hare the air – give everyone space and a fair go

The 'Above the Line' concept

Another suggestion is the 'above the line' concept. When people are 'above the line' they take responsibility for their actions and behavior.

Encouraging people to stay above the line will help reinve some objectivity in people's approach. Being above the line means you're looking for opportunities and are future focused.

People who sit below the line, tend to blame others for their situation or justify their actions (or lack of them).

Being below the line means you're not moving – you stay where you are – below the line. Being below the line also means you constantly look back in time and often wallow in negative issues that you have no influence over.