People in conversation

Interventions: 5 Things Facilitators Can Do When Conversations Get Hot


“What do I do when things go off the rails?” 

This is one of the most common questions facilitators ask. Perhaps they have witnessed it happen in a classroom or staff meeting, and they feel unsure of how to handle it.

At Essential Partners, we believe that 80% of the work of dialogue must happen before people enter the room, following the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you have designed a conversation carefully, prepared the participants and yourself thoughtfully, and designed and implemented the structures and processes necessary to achieve your purposes, then the need for intervention will be minimal. 

And yet—even with all that prevention—intervention may be needed. Someone might slip up on a ground rule or go off on a tangent. A participant might speak in a way that feels presumptuous or disrespectful to others. One participant may feel attacked by another, even if that wasn’t the speaker’s intention. What can facilitators do to get the conversation back on track? 

Essential Partners has been facilitating and designing difficult conversations for more than thirty years. This resource contains five tried-and-true practices to reach for when you need to intervene.



Meg Griffiths
Tags: Guide