So, your project participants aren’t getting on that well? In the words of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, DON’T PANIC! Everyone disagrees about something at some point. Try to remember it’s not personal, and everyone experiences things in their own way. The key to resolving conflict is to take a step back, remain unbiased to people's observations of their experiences, and try to think outside the box for resolution.
Step one is to run a guided conversation. This is where you facilitate a conversation and invite everyone to respond to specific questions about the project and conflicts you’re experiencing. One approach might be to use a ‘talking stick’ (or your own version of this) and having the facilitator, or yourself, ask a question and give each person a turn to answer. Remind your participants to remain neutral and try not to point fingers at individuals. Focus on actions and the project aims instead. You’re all in this together.
You could start with questions such as:
What matters to you the most in the project?
What’s your vision for the end results of the project?
What do you see your role as being in this project?
And lead onto questions such as:
What’s your biggest frustration at the moment and why?
Where do you feel you need the most support to deliver your best work?
What are your ideas for resolving the conflict we’re experiencing?
If you find that the group is identifying a common theme or issue, you could lead a discussion to generate ideas to help resolve this specific issue. Maybe everyone feels as though they can’t envision the final results of the project, or they don’t understand what they’re working towards? You offer a resolution to this by making more props, or creating vision boards for everyone to understand the essence of what you’re working towards.
Acknowledge everyone's assumptions and starting points
Although we tend to live our lives assuming everyone sees things the same as us, the truth is everyone experiences things differently. Even the same events can be interpreted and experienced in many different ways. What affects our assumptions and worldviews are what make us unique, from our past experiences, family support units, interests in art and culture and even friendships.
Simply acknowledging and bringing into the open everyone's assumptions is a great starting point for resolving conflict and creating an air of respect. People may surprise themselves with the things they didn’t realise they thought, or the things they assumed everyone was thinking.
I want, I wish, I love
Finally, get everyone to write down and then share the things they want, wish and love.
I want: Anything they feel would improve the project or make their task easier. This can be something very specific, for example, more support, additional items or props, or additional workshops on an arts skill.
I wish: This is their vision for the future, and by that, we mean the final project. What are their aims for the project? In a dream world, what would the perfect end result look like for them? This will help get everyone excited about a common goal for the project and bring back the excitement for what you’re all trying to achieve.
I love: A great note to end on. What do you love about the group, the project so far, or even just the discussion you’ve just had. Ask everyone to think of one positive thing that they have taken away from the whole experience so far.
Conflict doesn’t have to mean the end of a project or your artistic vision. It can simply mean that there’s been a miscommunication somewhere, or you’re all aiming for different things. Being able to talk about what’s going wrong, identify assumptions and come up with ideas for ways to work through it together can help bring your project back on track. And hopefully, create a much happier team. Good luck!