With Difficult Behaviors
Know how to gracefully
deal with the "problem" participant.
of the most challenging things for us to deal with as facilitators
is the "difficult" participant. I'm sure you've all experienced
this either as a member or leader of a group. You know the kind
of person I'm talking about. He's the one who keeps interrupting
the group to ramble incessantly on some seemingly irrelevant topic.
It seems that everyone but him can sense the tension in the room
and the members psychically screaming for him to "Please shut
Or you maybe you remember the antagonist. The one member that has
to disagree, argue, or criticize every comment someone makes.
We've been so conditioned to be "nice" in our culture
that we feel tongue-tied and helpless when someone else isn't being
so nice in our groups. As facilitators, and hopefully as participants
too, we have got to learn to compassionately and effectively handle
these kinds of behaviors. The next two issues will be devoted to
methods of handling individual behaviors that we might consider
"difficult" as facilitators. This issue provides some
general guidelines. The next will go into strategies to handle specific
1. When possible, talk to them privately to point out the problem
and coach them toward more desirable behaviors. Approach as a friend
and ally, not as an authority figure.
2. Focus on a specific desired behavior.
3. Don' judge a person's behavior as right or wrong.
4. Try to maintain the balance between protecting the group from
the distracting behavior and protecting the individual from undue
5. Accept what they're doing. Describe it. Ask about it.
6. Legitimize their feelings, perceptions, or rights.
7. Work with their issues when it will be productive for the group,
or defer the issues to a time when the group is likely to perform
well, despite the distraction.
8. Be sure to have ground rules and norms for participation, so
that the group can self monitor. Refer to the group for enforcement
when someone is out of line.
Adapted from "The Skilled
Facilitator," by Justice and Jamieson.
week, think of difficult situations in groups you've attended
or run. How did you handle them or how do you wish you would have
handled them? I'd love to hear you're experiences. Please
me your comments.
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