Resolve conflict within a meeting or workshop by understanding, clarifying, and confirming the purpose of the decision being discussed. Effective conflict resolution depends on shared purpose. Competing purposes will lead to competing solutions.

When an appeal to common purpose fails, combine active listening with extensive challenges to guide the discussion. Lastly, appeal to the objectives supported by the decision, such as the project, program, business, unit, or enterprise objectives. Let’s look at each of these three steps in more detail.

3 Steps to Conflict Resolution

3 Steps to Conflict Resolution

I.    Confirm Purpose

One burden on you, the facilitator, demands building consensus around the purpose of the decision and what it supports. You cannot afford to have a moving target if you want to build consensus. Make the group’s integrated purpose clear and visible. Document and display the purpose for all to confirm. Use your Purpose Tool as a quick and effective means of building consensual purpose, in writing, with instantaneous visual feedback for all of your participants.

II.   Active Listening

Active listening comprises four separate steps; namely:

  1. Make contact with the speaker, typically eye contact is leveraged to ensure the speaker is engaged,
  2. Absorb what is being said so that you can provide the entire group a summary of the individual’s contribution,
  3. Reflect what was said to ensure the speaker understands what they said. BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, WHY their contribution was made. Re-state how their response relates to the question at hand (frequently it is best to provide their reflection by writing it down on large Post-It paper), and then
  4. Confirm that their content, as reflected, is correct.

At least one person in any given group does not listen or hear what another person says. Some people don’t even listen to themselves. Reflection provides the most essential part of effective, active listening. However, you must confirm that your reflection is accurate.

III.   Appeal to Objectives

Carefully clarify and document the claims. Ask the group to contrast the two claims and ask them “to what extent” each claim supports the the various purposes. Specifically ask:

  • To what extent does each position support the overall project objectives?
  • To what extent does each position support the program objectives (ie, the reasons for approving the project)?
  • (continuing up the holarchy, if necessary)
  • To what extent does each position support the business unit objectives (ie, what would the executive sponsor say)?
  • To what extent does each position support the enterprise objectives (ie, what would the chief executive officer say)?

If the three steps, in sequence, fail to drive consensual resolution, take the documented claims back to the steering team, decision review board, or other for their input. Almost always, they will appeal to the reasons they approved the project or program. Sometimes participants fail to agree with each other based on irrational or irreconcilable terms. No facilitator can build consensus around every issue, but having a method to follow provides the confidence that you have done your best.


Finally, MG RUSH professional facilitation curriculum focuses on providing methodology. Each student thoroughly practices methodology and tools before class concludes. Some call this immersion. We call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.

Become Part of the Solution While You Improve Your Facilitation, Leadership, and Methodology Skills

Take a class or forward this to someone who should. MG RUSH Professional Facilitation Training provides an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, 40 CDUs from IIBA, and 3.2 CEUs. As a member of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF), our Professional Facilitation Training aligns with IAF Certification Principles and fully prepares alumni for their Certified Professional Facilitator designation.

Furthermore, our Professional Facilitation curriculum immerses students in the responsibilities and dynamics of an effective facilitator and methodologist. Because nobody is smarter than everybody, attend an MG RUSH Professional Facilitation, Leadership, and Methodology workshop offered around the world, see MG RUSH for a current schedule.

Go to the Facilitation Training Store to access our in-house resources. You will discover numerous annotated agendas, break timers, and templates. Finally, take a few seconds to buy us a cup of coffee and please SHARE.

In conclusion, we dare you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.

Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Monthly Facilitation blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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