Resolving conflict for someone else?

Conflict is healthy to a point but too much of it can get toxic and ultimately degrade the end-product in a band. What happens when conflict becomes so toxic between two individuals that they won’t even acknowledge each other in a rehearsal? More importantly, how does one rectify this sort of situation?

Several years ago, I was working as musical director for a small group and at some point along the way, a nasty tension developed between two of the vocalists. Rehearsal became excruciating due to one’s refusal to acknowledge the other and when words were spoken, they were extremely rude. This became problematic for me as the musical director because the product of the group was starting to suffer due to bad attitudes and rehearsal time being waisted on coaxing individuals into performing. Let me be the first to say that the problem isn’t just going to go away in many cases. It will only get worse if gone unchecked. I’m sure there are at least a few people who will read this and think, “well it’s none of your business what goes on between those two people.” Actually it is my business. Not the specifics of their problems, but rather the effect their “business” has on mine. I have a serious problem when rehearsal time is waisted and results in degraded performance. How might one deal with this kind of issue?

The best answer I can give (and the same one that was given to me by a close mentor prior to tackling the above scenario) is address it head-on. Think about what you are going to say prior to the discussion. You could even make a short outline to help keep yourself on track.  It is also very important to realize that your goal here is not to solve their personal issues. Rather, the goal is to help them understand that the problems have to be left at the door. This can be very difficult for some, but it will definitely separate the pros from the amateurs. During the conversation, I would caution against any sort of verbal assault as that can put people on the defensive. Accusations or taking a side can also add fuel to the fire. Try to keep the rehearsal productivity/end-product the focal point. Ultimately, even with all the respect and diplomacy in the world, some people will still get frustrated and possible walk out. Your task is to keep moving forward in those situations and not lose your cool. That could move right into another post . . .

I would love to hear your stories! Please feel free to share in the comments below!


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