Anytime you get a group of people together, conflicts are bound to arise. While we always hope for the best, recovery groups can sometimes get messy.
It is a good idea for groups to decide in advance how to handle problems and hopefully prevent conflicts before they start.
The GRASS Unity Council recommends the following tips for upholding group rules and de-escalating problems:
1. Be Clear About Group Rules
Clearly state your group’s rules at the beginning of each meeting. Post your group rules in the chat at the beginning of the meeting. Repeat as needed if new people come into the meeting space.
2. Uphold Your Group Rules
Group service members should lead by example and uphold the group rules.
3. Gently Remind Attendees of Group Rules
If meeting attendees are not adhering to the group rules, post gentle reminders to the group in the chat. The leader should also recite the rule as a “Gentle Reminder to the Group” and re-read the rule from the housekeeping reminders.
To avoid hard feelings and embarrassment, refrain from calling someone out publicly for breaking a rule. Providing a gentle reminder to the group helps to reinforce the rules. It also signals to other attendees the group intends to uphold its boundaries.
4. Enforce Your Group Rules
Sometimes gentle reminders aren’t enough to keep people on track. Groups should have a plan for enforcing rules that can automatically be put into effect without having to hold a Group Conscience meeting to discuss first.
Enforcing group rules can be uncomfortable and awkward. It does not come naturally to everyone. Work together to develop a strategy for upholding the group’s boundaries, especially for rules regarding safety.
Groups may want to designate a certain person in advance or on a case-by-case basis. However you collectively decide, the important part is to do so kindly and in the spirit of reconciliation.
GRASS Unity Council recommends groups enact a multi-stage process with gradually increasing consequences as a way to uphold group boundaries and keep the group safe. Once agreed upon, these pre-approved protocols can be enacted automatically and equally to all meeting participants, including service members.
For example, when someone breaks a rule pertaining to group safety, an agreed upon safety plan could include:
The length of the break should be something the group decides in advance through group conscience. This can be X number of meetings or X weeks. (Groups with daily meetings will likely require something different than groups with weekly meetings.)
If the temporary break does not work to reinforce the rule, a longer break can be imposed next. If that still does not solve the problem, individual GRASS groups can decide by Group Conscience to have an automatic rule that after X chances, the person is asked to not return to their meeting.
Important: GRASS, as an organization, will not ban any individual from attending all GRASS meetings. However, individuals may be restricted from holding service positions for failing to uphold the GRASS Code of Ethics and Guiding Principles in their service roles.
Individual GRASS groups are allowed to restrict people from attending their meetings who repeatedly break the group rules, especially those pertaining to safety as long as those rules are applied equally to everyone.
This includes groups that meet in official GRASS Recovery Grow Rooms or private Zoom accounts. GRASS groups have the freedom to create their own rules (within the GRASS guidelines) and the responsibility to uphold them.
5. Have a Safety Plan
Groups should set automatic protocols for situations where group safety is at risk.
This may include automatically muting a person, turning off a camera, putting someone in the waiting room, opening a break out room, or removing the person from the meeting room (this is discouraged in general and not allowed in official GRASS Recovery Grow Rooms).
Situations that may warrant safety protocols determined in advance by the group:
Take the time to develop a plan for handling conflicts before they arise.
If your group is having difficulty handling a conflict, please have your group rep reach out to the Unity Council for support. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: This is the last article in a series of GRASS explainers: What Is a GRASS Group?