Some have argued that if a forum has no conflict, it is not intimate enough – members are sugar-coating their sharing, not willing to raise issues that need to be resolved.
It is not that forums must have conflict, but forums are made up of idiosyncratic human beings so conflict is almost inevitable. That conflict can be swept under the rug, or it can be discussed transparently and vulnerably. Healthy, effective forums achieve greater intimacy and value through the process of addressing and resolving conflict(s).
Conflict comes in different forms:
- Disagreement over forum norms (is it okay to come late, miss many meetings, hog the air time)
- Disagreement over forum purpose/goals/how to spend our time (e.g., business vs personal focus)
- Different opinions on polarizing issues (e.g., political views) with one or more members advocating to convince others of the correctness of their point of view, leading others to feel judged or “commanded” to think in certain ways
- Business or personal conflict: One member begins doing business with another, or two members decide they are going to date/become a couple
Methods to address conflict depend on the type of issue:
- On norm violations or individual behavior that causes anger, sadness, or disappointment on the part of another member, clear the air between member A and B using the standard issue clearing model
- On alignment, do this exercise.
- On political conflict, and the desire to move from advocacy and judgment to genuine curiosity, see this blog.
- On business or personal conflict, see this blog.
- Some conflicts are a combination of elements, so a multi-faceted approach would work best.