Day 8: Approach Conflict with Compassion, Curiosity
We could write a lot about today’s principle. How to manage high emotions, and “angry” or disruptive engagement participants, is a big focus of our facilitation training and coaching. Read on for why we put angry in quotes, and for why compassion and curiosity are powerful approaches for any facilitator or engagement leader.
What does it mean?
In public engagement, we sometimes arrive at a place where conflicting ideas and positions can escalate into being expressed as feelings of anger or outrage. It is important to remember at this point that anger and outrage are often disguised misunderstanding, judgement or fear, and conflict is most often created by how we react to a person’s emotional state. By remembering this, we can avoid trying to ‘fix’ the conflict, or attempting to determine what the right and wrong answer to conflicting ideas might be.
As facilitators, rather than ‘fixing’ conflict, a method of addressing, and ultimately defusing it is to approach it with curiosity and compassion. Remind yourself that conflicting ideas are central to creative thinking, that when conflict is approached with curiosity it can be used towards growth and increasing our understanding of a situation or each other.
If we respond with compassion to a potential conflict situation, we defuse the negative energy and reflect mindfulness and potential for growth and understanding back to the group.
What does it look like?
In a workshop we held this summer, there was one individual who kept interrupting the process and diverting the facilitator’s attempts to explain the evening’s agenda, and inserting his own personal one. He wasn’t exactly angry, but he was certainly agitated and disruptive and he had his own personal points that he felt needed to be front-and-center with the group.
After the third such interruption, each growing with intensity, our facilitator recognized that there was a need to address this gentleman’s concerns directly, rather than moving on to meet the evening’s timelines. He asked the participant what his particular concern was, and what perspective he represented at the workshop.
Surprised at being given a chance to speak, the man offered that he was there representing his young granddaughter, and it was concern for her well-being that had brought him to the workshop. The opportunity to share his perspective and values, even briefly, allowed the gentleman to feel that they were validated and understood by the group. He then figuratively stood down, and proceeded to be an animated – but collaborative – participant in the evening’s activities.
This is part of an ongoing series exploring Delaney + Associates’ Company Creed. Check out the introduction piece here.