How to manage conflict during a meeting

It can be difficult to deal with meeting participants who are disagreeing with each other, or with your ideas. We look at some top tips on dealing with conflict during meetings.

Be prepared
One of the best defences against conflict is thorough preparation before the meeting. Set the agenda in advance and follow it closely without being too rigid. If you develop a reputation for running tightly structured meetings, there’s less chance that attendees will try to pursue their own agendas. If conflict does arise, having a strict agenda makes it easier to get back on track.

Woman Looking Away From an Argument Shrugging her Shoulders

Be on your guard for signs of conflict
Watching body language is a good way to spot potential conflicts early on. Facial expressions of raised eyebrows, shaking the head or rolling the eyes are clear signs that someone in the room is unhappy. Choose your words carefully if you sense you’re entering choppy waters. Effective communication can diffuse the tension and help to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Control arguments
Disagreements are normal in a healthy discussion. After all, someone who disagrees with another person’s point of view obviously cares about the business and their role in it. But if an argument gets out of hand, you need to nip it in the bud quickly. As a meeting facilitator it’s your job to ensure it runs as smoothly as possible, with the aim of achieving the set objectives. Make sure it doesn’t descend into personal attacks and offensive language. Stick to the facts. If necessary, call a halt to the proceedings and resume the meeting once everyone has had chance to calm down.

Don’t be aggressive if someone disagrees with you
It’s important to use tact and diplomacy if someone disagrees with you during a meeting. Always make the other person feel that, even though you don’t share their view, you value them as an individual who is entitled to his or her own opinion. The goal is to reach a compromise and move on with the meeting process without asserting your authority in an overly aggressive manner.

Businessman Looking at Business Woman Going Through Papers with a Worried Look on her FaceHandle difficult team members effectively
As we all know, a workforce is made up of all personality types. You need to be extra alert in meetings where the dynamics of the people involved make it more likely for conflict to arise. Gatherings where known troublemakers or dominating personalities are present can be particularly tricky to handle. Structure the discussion so everyone in the group has the chance to contribute. For example, say to each person that they only have three minutes to comment on a particular issue. This ensures everyone is treated fairly and no one commandeers the meeting.

Agree to disagree
There are times when it’s simply not possible for all parties present in a meeting to reach an agreement. In these cases, there is no point arguing until you’re blue in the face. The best thing you can do is agree to disagree and escalate the issue to the next level of management so you can hopefully move forward.


Posted by Ashleigh Sharp

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