By Rick Lent, Ph.D
Originally published on Meeting for Results
Structuring A Respectful Meeting In A Contentious Situation…
Here are five tools that are particularly helpful in structuring a productive conversation when you expect conflicting views. You can plan to use most of these tools in advance of the session, but any of them can be implemented “in the moment” when a discussion threatens to get heated. See the links to earlier posts for more explanation and examples of the tools mentioned here.
Tools to Build More Balanced Feedback. The tools I call 1-2-All and PALPaR can be used in combination with Three Reaction Questions to create a more measured, balanced discussion. 1-2-All is helpful because asks participants to reflect first and then share their thoughts with one or two others before speaking to the whole group. These first two steps create a structure in which each person is more naturally able to gain some insight into their own and other’s perspectives. I find that 1-2-All can keep a discussion from being “stolen” by one impassioned participant. PALPaR, particularly used with Three Reaction Questions, enables a balanced hearing of the feedback, followed by a later, more thoughtful response that integrates what was heard. It avoids setting up the back-and forth of question/response that can verge on becoming a verbal dual.
A Tool for Working with Both Sides of an Issue. Forces Review can turn an unproductive debate into an acknowledgement of both problems and possibilities. It engages the group in a constructive dialogue about how to improve the possibilities of success while recognizing the difficulties. (I will describe this tool in detail in an upcoming post. For now, see the Meeting for Results Tool Kit for more information on how to use this tool.)
A Tool to Use in the Moment. One more tool can be used in the moment a potential conflict arises: Practical Sub-Grouping. This tool outlines a process designed to structure a productive exchange when one or two people speak out against the prevailing direction of some discussion. As a leader, you can use this tool very transparently. No one should feel that you are manipulating the direction of any debate. You simply form several sub-groups to talk with one another about their views (not about why they dislike some other view) while others listen. Then you ask the whole group to identify what they conclude from having listened to this sharing. (See the description of Practical Sub-Grouping in the Meeting for Results Tool Kit for more information on how to use this tool.)
These and another 27 tools are described in my “job aid” for anyone working to lead better meetings — Meeting for Results Tool Kit: Make Your Meetings Work.
Learn more about how to lead an effective meeting for your organization in our upcoming webinar with Rick on Wednesday, November 16th at 1 pm ET/10 am PT. Register today: Leading More Effective Board Meetings