What to Do When Your Meeting Reaches an Impasse

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We’ve all been there – a work meeting that seems to last forever because no one can agree. Everyone wants to be heard and everyone wants their input to matter. But, alas, you are at an impasse.

So what do you do when you reach this point? You want to keep communication open and have an effective meeting, but aren’t sure how to do that. The following are just a few helpful tips to prevent an impasse at your next meeting.

Have a Plan
Not only is it good to have a plan when you start a meeting, but it’s also effective when you reach an impasse. A plan may be as simple as writing down everyone’s thoughts and ideas, possibly through “Mind Mapping,” to thoroughly and thoughtfully discuss them. With this, everyone feels heard and the conversation stays meaningful.

Control the Situation
When the impasse occurs, it’s important that one person steps up to “facilitate” the rest of the meeting. This may be as simple as asking others to speak up and share their thoughts. Or it could entail moving onto another topic to allow everyone to cool off before addressing the issue again.

Whoever does step up to facilitate the meeting, it’s important that they help everyone assume positive intent. At the end of the day, you are all on a team, working together to reach a common goal. Realizing this will help others not take things personally, and will foster an environment of open discussion and idea sharing.

Keep Talking
During an impasse, always encourage open communication. Glossing over an issue, or never settling it can cause bitterness and animosity among the group.

In addition, never put issues to a vote. In a vote, the minority always loses causing unhappiness and instability. Strive for an agreement, consensus, or harmony.

Between Two
Lastly, there may be times when the impasse results when just two people in the meeting can’t seem to agree. The conversation can often get off topic or even turn personal. At this point, it is beneficial to get the whole group involved.

Start by clearly expressing each viewpoint, possibly writing it on a whiteboard for clarity and to make sure nothing is missed. Next, allow the whole group to chime in, giving their ideas and opinions on the pros and cons of these viewpoints. As a result, the two will have had time to cool off, giving them a chance to see the full picture and, perhaps, even change their view.

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