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Facilitating group discussions
Facilitating group discussions

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6.6 Agrees with everything

The group agrees with everything.

The challenge

  • People go along with decisions without saying what’s on their mind.
  • Decisions are made without thorough analysis and discussion.

What’s really going on

  • Everyone is in agreement and a good solution has been identified.
  • There is a power differential in the room and no one feels confident enough to openly disagree with a leader or manager.
  • People are not interested in the topic and wish to bring the session to a conclusion as quickly as possible.
  • The discussion has taken a long time, and individuals want some form of closure even if it means settling for something other than a win/win situation.
  • Individuals do not have any real investment in the outcome.

Facilitator pitfalls

  • Failing to find out beforehand whether there will be a power differential within the room which will be likely to dominate decisions.
  • Assuming that unanimous group agreement means that there are no concerns with regard to the decision.
  • Sticking to a large group format.
  • Not setting ground rules to create safety and comfort to facilitate open discussions.

Intervention strategies

  • Ensure agreement is genuine so that reservations aren’t revealed at a later date, possibly in more destructive ways.
  • Ask some ‘devil’s advocate’ questions to test the strength of the agreement.
  • Create a safe climate and stress that disagreement can be very valuable for encouraging creativity and identifying the best solution.
  • Split the group into pairs or smaller groups to discuss the options – have small groups feedback on flip charts and discuss. This will provide a safer environment to allow disagreement. Other ‘safe’ alternatives that allow individual contributions to remain anonymous can also help (secret ballot, etc.).