30 Mar 2016

Bucket Meetings - A Conflict Resolution Solution

Bucket Meetings are a good way to clear the air with a group.  I have been doing them with my Cabin of 10 year 9 boys at the boarding school I work at.  These boys get thrown in to this Cabin together and need to work out how to get along for the year, keeping the place clean and getting around the busy learning schedule we set them.  Inevitable tensions rise in the Cabin and these need to be resolved.  Bucket meetings are a chance to take ownership of any part they had in issues and talk it out.

I had a really successful meeting with my Cabin today which inspired me to write this blog.  The results were the boys saying these sorts of things to each other:

  • I'm sorry for blaming you for everything for the last three years, that wasn’t fair and I’m going to change.
  • I’m sorry for taking my anger out on you just because you are a new boy and I knew you wouldn't fight back.
  • Numerous sorries for small transgressions in language and personal boundaries.
  • Calling his friends out on a nick name that had stuck that he really hated but had never said anything.
  • Acknowledging that he treated the white guys differently than his mates and purposefully started arguments and wanted to change this.
These things were the gems, there was a lot more said and it does seem that it takes a while of being in this formal space before things get deep at least 45min perhaps longer depending on the emotional maturity of the group.

The atmosphere amongst the cabin group was significantly better afterwards compared with when we started.  It had shifted from a stagnant, do we have to be here, going through the motions group of people to a group that felt happy, good, happy to be with each other, full of hope for higher team performance in the future, with smiles all round.  I couldn't stop smiling too.  A few of the boys said later that evening the really enjoyed it and it was a worthwhile thing to do.

So How Does It Work You Wonder?  

Clear the air of any things that are going on that are not being talked about.
Take ownership of actions that may have negatively impacted someone.
Opportunity to do the right thing.
Decide on any actions that need to happen.

This the Big Idea Speech that I give to my Cabin about the meeting

As people live together there can be small interactions and conflicts that go on, some of these are resolved, some are not.  As we go a long things that are not resolved all end up in the bucket of stuff.  As the bucket gets fuller the tension in the place rises until eventually the bucket will start over flowing.  This is when people start fighting, shouting, yelling, doing hurtful things to each other, it is when relationships can fall into a downward spiral.  By acknowledging that the bucket is getting full and emptying it by saying what is on your mind in a meeting is a good thing that lead to better relationships and getting on with your cabin members.  You do not have to be best friends with these people, we do have to learn to work and live together as cabin members.

There are some ground rules and guidelines these help to maintain the tone and to help students take ownership rather than passing the buck and blaming others.

  • This works only if people are willing to take ownership of actions from both sides of a disagreement.
  • It is good to listen and accept what others have to say about you.  
  • Defending and justifying your actions hinders emptying the bucket.
  • Talk to the person in the room not about them to the facilitator.
  • One person talking at a time. (the facilitator can talk when appropriate)
  • Talk from your own perspective when possible.
  • Students don’t give each other advice.
It is a great way to give students a safe opportunity to sincerely say they are sorry.  I have used this resource, A Better Way To Say Sorry, before with great success.  Bucket Meetings can be very cathartic when the students are willing to buy into the idea and take ownership of their own part to play in "filling the bucket up".

1 comment:

  1. I had a similar meeting with another cabin today. Totally agree that it really clears the air!