Communication During Conflict
How to be Heard in the Heat of the Moment
Conflict in a committee or consensus body is not unexpected or uncommon. The members of the committee are there to share their ideas and come to agreement on which to incorporate into a document. Naturally, each person would like their idea to be the one chosen and will come prepared to defend their idea.
Working with each other to listen to those ideas and fairly consider and discuss them is the challenge all standards volunteers face. When faced with conflict within the group how can members react to help support the discussion and move it in a positive direction?
Rules for Debate
Establishing rules for discussion including when members may speak, when they may rebut, etiquette and decorum for discussion (e.g., no name calling) are important in bringing structure to the process. The rules should be reviewed with the group prior to a discussion and then re-reviewed when a discussion appears to be getting heated or members are starting to bend the rules.
When a particularly difficult discussion is being held, it’s helpful to take breaks. This allows everyone a chance to clear their heads and think through their arguments and consider the opinions that others have shared. This is also a good time to speak informally with others on the committee or consensus body to gain their insights on the issue. Seek out members that haven’t yet spoken to gain their views and ideas. It may be a solution to the issue is there, but the member that has it hasn’t had a chance to speak yet.
Questions Solve Problems
If you get the sense that you aren’t being heard or that your thought isn’t being understood, try asking questions of the other members. Ask them which parts of your idea they support or do not support and why. If an individual is advocating for a specific viewpoint, ask them to further explain it but with different words or in a different way. In diverse committees, certain words may be understood to mean different things, and this can create confusion and conflict. By asking others to rephrase their ideas or explain why they do not support the use of certain words, you can bring clarity and help resolve the conflict.
Be Open to Change
If others on the committee have a set viewpoint on an issue, acknowledge this and look for other solutions. Continuing to push a certain idea that the committee has made clear they do not support will only frustrate you and will not lead to the result you’re seeking. By acknowledging their viewpoint, you can seek other pathways or options to address your concerns, e.g. “I can see why you feel this requirement is too prescriptive, but I’m concerned that this product still has a high risk of burns, how else can we address this safety concern?”
In all cases, a cool head will prevail. Have confidence in yourself and your opinions and bring that confidence with you to meetings. Seek out support from other members and where you can, ask questions to better your understanding and help you to see alternate viewpoints.
Do you have a tip for addressing conflict? Click here to submit your ideas and Women in Standards may include your story in a future publication.