If an interaction is becoming increasingly tense, but is a good conversation for the group to have, simply acknowledge the tension in the room. Acknowledge the different perspectives and encourage the group to be respectful in their responses.
Example: “Alright, I can see you ladies really want to talk about this and that’s great. But let’s just acknowledge this topic is not always clean cut and we come to the table with a host of different experiences. Be careful not to make judgments about each other’s ideas without hearing their side.”
This approach works well when someone in the group begins to take the group down a dangerous path or there seems to be tension. This also works helps if someone has something they try to bring up over and over again. Simply explain maybe we’re getting a “little off-track” and pose the next question from the study guide. Use the study guide as your friend.
Example: “Rob, you bring up a really interesting point, but I’m concerned we could spend a lot of time talking about that. Joe, what do you think about the next question?”
Sometimes the group needs you as the leader to either shut the conversation down immediately or publicly challenge the person making the group unsafe. This is usually rare and it isn’t easy either. There are two times you will want to consider this.
First is when there’s mocking, belittling or condescension starting to shape the tone of the conversation.
Example: “John, I don’t believe you intended to hurt anyone with the comment you just made, but I’m concerned there are people, even in this group, that could be very hurt by it. I ask everyone in the group, please commit to not talking about others in that tone.”
A second time to utilize a head-on challenge is when someone or the whole group is offering gobs of advice and you can see a person shutting down.
Example: “Betty, I’m so sorry for what you’re walking through right now. And I know we’ve given you lots of advice. I hope you know that what we all really want is for you to have hope in this situation. Now, I think the rest of us need to give Betty a break. In fact, I would ask that you only give her words of encouragement for the rest of the group. No more advice.”
How can these 3 tactics help you as a leader?
Is there a topic that keeps coming up that you need to redirect from?
Which tactic do you feel like you need to use more?