As facilitators and leaders, we see things happen in groups that provoke fear in us. Conflict is one of these things. We may fear that addressing the conflict will worsen it or cause the group to reject us. Conversely, conflict-avoidance may have worked to protect us in the past.
“Can’t we all just get along?” has become a common refrain as we attempt to steer clear of any perceived conflict.
So why address it? Why not just wait until it settles down or you move on to lead another group?
1. It’s a Normal Part of Group Work
Conflict does not only happen in groups that cannot get along. Or groups that have members with difficult personalities. It happens to all groups that stay together long enough to encounter this stage of group work. A normal stage of group work.
2. It’s Going to Occur
If you have the privilege of leading or facilitating a group that is together long enough to move through the initial stages to the transitioning stage, conflict will occur. It’s a powerful process step that can move a group toward peak performance and new possibilities.
3. It’s Our Responsibility
As group facilitators and leaders, we have a responsibility to nurture the well-being of the group. Unaddressed conflict is insidious. It deadens the group over time, replacing its vitality with restrictive rituals that only temporarily reduce our anxiety.
Addressing conflict is difficult and a necessary process task for groups that want to thrive. We can learn, along with our groups, ways to recognize, reframe, and respond to conflict. I will explore some of these ways over the next few weeks in my posts.