November/December 2016 www.acs.org/undergrad • inChemistry
15 Setting up ground rules
Once everyone has assembled together, it’s time to set up
some ground rules for the discussion. Although they may not
need to be strictly enforced, if the conversation gets heated,
it’s good to have these rules of engagement set up to refer
back to later.
Good rules to include are:
• active listening techniques;
• giving each speaker your full attention during the discussion (as
the leader, set a physical example by leaning in when each person is talking);
• taking turns during the conversation; and
• having the parties address each other, not you.
Your primary purpose is to observe and, if needed, enforce
ground rules. While you can offer neutral suggestions to solve
a problem, ultimately the parties involved need to work out a
solution that will work for them going forward. Encourage people to use “I” statements in describing the problems, such as “I
feel…” and “I would like to…”. Such statements tend to come
off as less aggressive and can help each person understand
how their actions affect others. More ground rules concerning respect and openness to finding a compromise can also be
added, if appropriate.
Mediation and follow-up
In the CCED scenario, Nadia and Matt were having problems
on many fronts, including personality and communication dif-
ferences stemming from
the surface issue of which
type of event to host.
Addressing the surface
problem is like trying to
put a Band-Aid on a bullet
hole (yes, that’s a Taylor
Swift reference). If the
issues underneath aren’t
resolved, then there’s
the potential for future
Encourage each person
to explain why they feel
the way they do about the
problem. Matt might indi-
cate he doesn’t feel com-
fortable speaking up over
Nadia, and she, in turn,
might feel like he doesn’t
take her ideas seriously.
Ask each of them how
they would propose find-
ing a solution, and have
them talk it out until there’s an agreeable compromise.
A possible resolution for this conflict might include Nadia
and Matt agreeing in writing rather than in person before
announcing plans for an event. Matt could forgo tradition
but still be able to give input by helping to fully flesh out
Nadia’s idea. Of course, there are many ways this scenario
could play out. The key is to have both parties agree on a
compromise in such a way that they both feel satisfied that
they’ve been heard.
If you achieve compromise and good communication, consider the mediation successful. If the conflict has been especially contentious, it’s a good idea to write up a “contract” of
sorts, with each party outlining what they agreed to so they
can reference their plan if they need it in the future.
Mediating conflicts can feel uncomfortable, but leaving them to fester can be destructive to the health of your
chapter and may discourage others from wanting to work on
projects together. By impartially approaching conflicts in your
chapter, you can help make your chapter a successful and
thriving place where people are happy to share their love of
Jessica Roberts has a B.A. in chemistry from the University
of Virginia. She currently works in the ACS Undergraduate