How to Break Through an Impasse in a Meeting–a useful HBR tip of the day that I explore in the Difficult Conversations workshop. Anyone can use this skill…it doesn’t have to be the manager or facilitator.
What do you do when the purpose of your meeting is to make a decision but the group can’t reach consensus?
Often it’s useful to acknowledge what’s happening. You might say something like: “OK, this is a difficult conversation, but let’s take a breath and stay with it until we get to a good place.” Then outline a clear process for working through the issue; the conversation will go better if people believe it isn’t going to become a free-for-all. Try capturing on a whiteboard the points that people have made, which will let everyone review the conversation so far and think about whether new information is needed. You may also want to ask people for suggestions on moving the conversation forward. Don’t just vote on the issue, however — that often leads to an unhappy majority. Whatever process you do use, remind everyone to assume positive intent, keep the conversation kind and gracious, and listen to one another.
Adapted from “When You’ve Reached an Impasse in Your Meeting,” by Paul Axtell