Dealing with Conflict Between Members – Clearing The Air

Dealing with Conflict Between Members - Clearing The Air

Having grown up in the Midwest of the United States, I was only aware of one type of conflict…bad conflict. But as I’ve matured and learned my lessons, I know now that not all conflict is bad. In fact, conflict can be very good for communication. Conflict Resolution Expert, Ken Johnson, explains ( how there are two types of conflict, anabolic and catabolic.

  • Anabolic conflict is defined by open discourse, honesty, investigation and introspection of key processes and players, acceptance of diverse ideas, and collaboration.
  • Catabolic conflict is contracting, draining, and results in a low ability to resolve conflict.

Anabolic conflict happens all the time in Forums because people are sharing at deep levels, being vulnerable, and challenging each other to grow and learn. This is good conflict to have. While it’s a nice dream to think that all conflict is anabolic, it’s just not realistic. Catabolic conflict does happen. When it does, it needs to be addressed quickly within the group.

Clearing The Air is a structured process to address any catabolic conflict that exists between members. Some Forums do a Clearing The Air process at the start of every Forum by going around and asking each person to state if they have an issue with anyone or if they are good. I’m not a fan of this because if there is a big issue, it could blow up the whole agenda for the meeting.

Instead, I suggest this four step process:

  1. The two members try to resolve the issue themselves by having a conversation outside the Forum meeting.
  2. If that doesn’t work, bring the Moderator in to act as a mediator to the discussion to make sure both sides are given a fair chance to state their case and be heard.
  3. If that doesn’t work, bring the topic to the whole Forum for a discussion during a Forum meeting.
  4. If that doesn’t work and the issue persists with neither side shifting from their position, then the group should set up a vote on how to move forward.

Beyond this process, Forums should also do a Member-To-Member assessment once a year so there is some quantitative data on member performance. Then, carve out some time at either the one-day retreat or the full retreat to go through the Member-To-Member assessment. I’ll share more on this process in another post.

Clearing out the catabolic conflict between members early is a critical step in running healthy Forum. If you have “beef” with a fellow member, or you sense something is going on between other members, share this process with them so we can catch the smoke before it becomes a full blown fire.

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