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Facilitation and Conflict - Why?

December 6, 2022

As a facilitator, your purpose is to hold the space to allow the people in the event to achieve the agreed outcomes. This will require distance from the participants as the focus is on helping the people work through the agenda to deliver the outcomes. 

This will require some preparation to create an agenda that will guide the group through a process to achieve the outcome. Through this there will often be moments of disagreement or conflict. As a facilitator, you must help the group navigate the conflicts that emerge and focus on arriving at an outcome. The key is to help the group enter and exit conflict gracefully. 

There are some common practices that may help guide a group through the event, ultimately it will rely on your facilitation! 

There are four parts to this series: 

1. Why we need Conflict 

2. Facilitation Groundwork for effective conflict facilitation 

3. Facilitating objective evaluation of Ideas 

4. How to Navigate Conflict 

Why we need conflict 

Constructive healthy conflict is an essential tool to find innovative approaches to problems, as well as strengthen team cohesion. When a group navigates conflict successfully it increases commitment and psychological safety – which creates a stronger sense of team. 

When we bring together a diverse group of skilled professionals to explore a problem space, they will by nature of their diversity see different ways to address the challenges presented. By engaging in an objective discussion testing the various ideas, we create the opportunity for a new better solution. 

When we are under pressure to deliver, it is very tempting to take the first solution that we think is workable. With more effort and insight, we can unlock many more options – and then select the optimal solution. 

This process is often called the triad thesis, where the two different ideas combine to create a new, hopefully better idea. 

Triad Thesis Image
Triad Thesis: Thesis, Antithesis, conflict, Synthesis


Patrick Lencioni describes conflict as a continuum. On one extreme “Artificial Harmony” where there is no disagreement, and at the other extreme personal attack. Our duty of care as a professional facilitator is to help the group work in the midpoint, where there is objective constructive challenge to create the optimal solutions.  

When a discussion moves to either extreme, as a facilitator we call that out and bring the discussion back to the central objective space. 

Conflict Continuum
The Conflict Continuum - with the constructive zone


Call to Action 

How will you act as a facilitator to bring your groups together into constructive, objective conflict? 

Check out the other blogs in the series that explore techniques to create a constructive space and techniques to navigate conflict. 

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