At some point in most meetings, there is impasse. Two participants take opposite sides on an issue. You know the drill: as they defend their positions, they dig their heels more firmly in. The group’s frustration builds; energy levels diminish.
Don’t get me wrong. Conflict can be necessary to group decision making. No group should fear conflict or disagreement.
However, by using two simple techniques from the worlds of negotiation and creativity, you can ferret out and eliminate the unnecessary discussion of disagreement.
- Replace the habit of “Either… Or” with “Both… And.” Using this technique as a facilitator, I am regularly reminded how often two competing alternatives are actually compatible. In fact, participants usually begin smiling when they realize that the two alternatives they saw as mutually exclusive are actually complimentary — more powerful together than either one alone.
- Use “Split the Difference.” When the difference is quantitative in nature, propose a solution that is half way between the two positions.
If impasse emerges at your next meeting, try these two simple techniques. Reduce frustration, generate energy and build a habit of collegial agreement.
This is a re-post from February 12, 2010.