Meeting 5-4
Focus: Resolving Conflict

The basic structure of this meeting is the same as Meeting 1.1 - refer back for more information.

Some issues may have come up during check-in that the group may wish to spend more time on rather than moving straight into the 'focus'; or perhaps some issue is still to be dealt with from the previous week. When it is appropriate the leader moves the group into the main focus for this meeting.

5) The Big Bit in the middle - the leader announces the focus of the meeting

Focus: Resolving Conflict

"The simplest definition of conflict is: I want something, you want something else'. In any relationship, or group activity that continues over time there is bound to be conflict at some point; this is unavoidable".

"Conflict is not bad or something to be avoided or denied or hidden from. Conflict is simply the process whereby we as individuals express our wants, and engage in discussion as a group to meet those wants as fairly as possible."

"We recognise that conflict may be a scary place to be because of past experiences of being hurt during a conflict - or because of fears of losing the relationship (abandonment) . We also recognise the need to create and use healthy conflict resolution guidelines that assist us in solving our conflicts in a non-abusive way."

Conflict Resolution Guidelines

- for discussion
  1. Turning down the heat

    For a resolution to be possible, we must take the heat out of the issue, ie we must step back from postures of accusing/blaming/judging. There needs to be a cooling-off period, or emotional time-out, especially if the conflict has gotten very heated.


    1. Tell the guys to take a few minutes of deep breathing
    2. Ask them to notice what they are feeling - especially physical sensations
    3. Ask them if they have any energy they need to release; and find an appropriate, non-abusive/shaming/intimidating way to do it - the group will need to guard/ensure appropriate actions throughout this whole process, and stop any abusive actions immediately.
    4. When energy has been released, and things are settling down again, repeat ii) above (Cycle through i, ii and iii as necessary)
    5. Ask them if they are ready to move on - but be ready to cycle back to release energy as needed.
  2. Owning what you want

    As 'cleanly' as possible, the men involved in the conflict state what they want as it pertains to their needs - WITHOUT REFERRING TO THE 'OTHER' MAN. (ie not what the other man did/said, or should do/say - this will just bog us down)

    "I want a group where I________________________"
    "I want a rule that says________________________"
    "I want a process where it is ok to________________________"
    "I want to be able to________________________"

    This is crucial - it's at this point we untangle our egos, take the personalities out of it and begin to explore the issue underneath; and do the work of owning, identifying and revealing our underlying needs. Again the group will need to guard this process and even assist a man in 'cleaning' up his wants, so that he owns them totally.

  3. Working towards clarity

    At this point we may begin to have a sense of clarity over what the issue is. The issue may even be resolved (see note 2). Perhaps one other man in the group is acting as arbitrator, with assistance from others as they 'see' what is happening and can add to group process.

    - But - beware someone (unconsciously?) diverting, taking focus away from this specific issue -try to keep the energy focussed on the issue at hand.

  4. Owning what you said and did and your intent

    Having said what we want, now we have an opportunity to explore what was said/done by who, and what reactions/feelings came up. This can be helpful to clear up misunderstandings, and what was actually 'intended' by a certain statement or action.

    Each man should reflect on his honest intentions, and work to remember and own what he said/did. Each man should focus on perhaps one or two points that are most meaningful, reflecting back:

    • eg "When you said______________________________, I felt_________________________, and it seemed to me that_____________________________. Is that what you intended?"
    • or "Did you actually say____________________?
      What was your intention?"
    • or "Did you realise how your words/action might be taken?"
    • or "When you did/said_________________, do you realise you broke our agreement on_________?"
    • or "I am having a hard time understanding why_______________. Can you explain it to me?"
  5. Owning your Feelings

    If we are stuck in anger, blame or resentment, we probably haven't completed our work in 2 and 4 above. It's only as we see each man honestly taking ownership, acknowledging inappropriate behaviours and making amends/apologies that we can honour his integrity and once again move into a place of trust. However, taking ownership may take time, and in fact some men may never reach that level of maturity.

    In the meantime we have our feelings to deal with. We may be feeling put-upon, put-down and unsafe in a place where men are unwilling to take ownership. We may not trust a man for that very reason. Ultimately your feelings are yours - meaning nobody makes you feel anyway you don't agree to feel - (the opposite is to be continually in 'victim mode'). You can choose to let go of any issue any time you want to, it's your work, and nobody else's.

    Ideally, men have satisfactorily taken ownership, and we can process and work with what came up for us/what we felt/are feeling in an 'ordinary' (non-conflict) environment, for this issue the same as we might for any other issue originating outside group.

  6. Owning the Solution

    - ie being a part of defining and creating where you want to be.

    Ideas/solutions/compromises may have already occurred, or can be brainstormed at this point. The conflict may naturally lead into a 'rules debate' - a further refinement of group process that attempts to more satisfactorily deal with wants/needs in group (whether feelings issues have been dealt with/completed or not - this may only happen after the 'refinement' process).

Notes for Meeting 5-4

  1. Many conflicts will be resolved simply by men taking ownership, because, as outlined below -
    1. They were 'projections' - one man projecting his stuff onto another man and trying to get him to own it/carry it for him. When he's asked to state/own his want, as it pertains to him, he may have difficulty, and he/others may realise he was 'projecting', ie inappropriately asking another man to be or do or say something.
    2. They were 'ego constructions' - some personal reaction/resistance/judgement of what another man was saying, who was then inappropriately confronted. Again when we are required to own our want/need we may find it has nothing to do with the other man, and the issue dissolves.
  2. The focus here is not on scoring points, but on taking ownership - is each man able to acknowledge and own what he said/did? Can he do the inner work of looking for what was motivating him and exploring/explaining his intent? - and recognising appropriateness?

    This can be an uncomfortable place to be, confronted by what you said and what your intent was, it does take maturity and courage to accept ownership and not 'hide', if this doesn't happen we may get bogged down and go around in circles with increasing resentment and moving further away from a resolution - the group that can step in here and require men to take ownership will fare better than the group that lets two men 'duke it out'.