Stop the fighting
Know how to prevent a squabble from turning into full-scale warfare in your stokvel by knowing when and how to get involved, writes Xoliswa Mhlaba
CONFLICTS in stokvels can be common, like in any other group setting. Think of work, church and families. There is always some form of conflict when people with different personalties and expectations come together. That conflict can affect or destroy the group.
According to clinical psychologist, Anele Siswana, in any setting that involves people, conflict, disagreements, gossip and other underlying concerns will lead to what is commonly referred to as group dynamics.
“What I have observed in group settings is that conflict stems from misunderstanding, lack of rules that govern what is expected and different interests. If group norms or rules are not adhered to, this can lead to tension and possible conflicts,” he says. That is why it’s very important for stokvels not to let the conflict get out of hand and find quick ways to resolve it.
Financial experts advise that all stokvels must have a functioning constitution. This is where all the rules and regulations of how the stokvel works are written. Also ensure that your constitution also outlines the penalties for each rule broken.
This includes penalties for those arriving late, those making payments late and those not contributing consistently. It should cover all the possible scenarios that can involve the group being in a space of conflict.
“This basically means that one’s involvement in the group will be judged on the basis of written and communicated rules that shape the functioning of the group.
If one fails to comply with the desired outcomes of the group, sanctions and ways of dealing with the problem will be drawn from the constitution and group norms,” says Anele.
Dealing with different personalities in a group context is not easy when there are no clear boundaries and rules set by the stokvel.
Some people may have more dominant personalities than others.
“It’s also crucial to acknowledge that group members come from different backgrounds that may have influenced one’s behaviour, character and personality,” says Anele.
He adds that it’s very important for group members to create a space of trying to understand each other.
He recommends group activities like team building, workshops and group interactions with the aim of trying to understand the different personalities that make up the stokvel. It’s also very important for the chairperson or the stokvel leader to be able to deal with the dynamics of each person in the group. It’s quite common to have an individual that constantly causes conflict in a group.
This can be through not complying with the rules, inconsistent payments or influencing others negatively in the stokvel.
Anele advises against direct confrontation when dealing with this kind of person.
“One of the best ways is to try to make the member see the impact of their behaviour and what it does to the group,” says Anele.
In that way, there’s potential for engagement and an opportunity to enhance his or her insight in ways of relating with the group without making anyone uncomfortable.”
That is why it’s also important to have a constitution so that the stokvel can refer back to it and be able to give out the required penalty. During a conflict, everyone wants to tell their side of the story. They are so focused on proving that they are right or trying to defend themselves. They don’t hear other people or what they are trying to communicate.
Most of the time the true message gets lost and nothing is resolved because people are not hearing or understanding each other.
Unresolved problems or fights can cause negative energy and make it difficult for the stokvel to function properly.
“It’s important that the parties that are in conflict communicate with the aim to understand each other.
This approach simply encourages those involved in conflict to take a step back and explore ways of handling or dealing with the conflict,” Anele says.
Sometimes when it is difficult for the stokvel members to find common ground, they should get a neutral person to assist.
“In group settings, I encourage that if the confrontational approach does not work. It is important to consider a third party that may intervene as a neutral ear and mediator to assist in finding a solution,” says Anele.
Find quick ways to resolve it