Keeping the Work Positive: Riding Through Internal Conflicts

Keeping the Work Positive: Riding Through Internal Conflicts

The fight to protect our lakes, rivers and wetlands is one that requires strong volunteers—individuals who are dedicated and passionate about the cause. While this type of strong person is crucial for success, organizations often struggle with conflict when several of these passionate and strong individuals work together.

Typically, conflicts within groups arise from differences in personality. Some individuals may prefer to take a leading role on a particular issue while others are more comfortable providing support in a “follower” position.

In trying to keep the outlook of your organization positive, it is important to remember a few suggestions for dealing with conflict. The first is that what motivates your members and volunteers can vary from person to person. Your motivation for getting involved may be vastly different from your neighbor’s—remembering that you are working for the same cause can go a long way towards alleviating tensions.

Appreciating and understanding the different skills that your members possess is another positive way to deal with conflict within the group. While another members’ approach to a particular problem might differ from yours,acknowledging the worth in a variety of solutions to any issue that your group might face is an important tool to minimize conflict. Rarely is anything solved by a single solution—true successes are often achieved by a variety of tactics and individuals working together.

Finally, practicing active listening is an effective way to manage any conflicts that your group might face. Active listening is the practice by which the listener is careful to engage using some simple techniques including repeating what the other person has said to validate what the speaker is saying and allowing the speaker to express their opinion or disagreement without providing advice or judgment can lead to better understanding and solutions.

Conflicts are common within organizations, but don’t let them divide or weaken you. By working through conflicts your organization will be stronger and better able to continue your important work.

Tips to Work Through Group Conflicts

  1. Remember to breathe
  2. Appreciate differences and identify common ground
  3. Set up basic rules for meetings that respect everyone and to which all agree
  4. Practice active listening
  5. Provide opportunities to remind members of the common goal



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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.