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The Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0061| July 9, 2002
7,700 Subscribers


Approaches to Dealing With Difficult Behaviors I
 Know specific actions you can take to gracefully deal with the "difficult" behaviors.

The Point

This is a continuation of last week's treatment of dealing with difficult behaviors. For the next two weeks, we will review some specific actions you can take when you encounter various kinds of difficult behaviors. 


1. Dominating the Discussion. A person talks too often, too long, or too loud, making it difficult for others to participate.

- Stop the person, thank him or her, and say you'd like to hear from someone else.
- Call attention to the agenda and time frames.
- Break eye contact. Move away from the person. Stop giving him or her focused attention.
- Move closer and closer to the person, maintaining eye contact. Get in front of him or her. The problematic behavior will start to stand out (even to the person).
- Summarize what the person has said and move to someone else.
- Give the person a time limit.
- Before the discussion starts, pose a standard for the length of comments. For example: "Let's hear from a few people for no more than 2 minutes each."
-  When you know in advance that an individual or individuals tend to dominate a group, propose a ground rule at the beginning of the session that everyone "monitor the air time." Explain that for some, this means talking less; for others, it means talking more.
- Introduce an inclusion activity to get everyone participating.

2. Inserting Personal Agendas. A person continually inserts a concern, a disagreement, or an alternative or additional agenda item. This is often annoying if it's repetitious and distracts from the group task.
- Ask the person how what he or she is saying relates to the current agenda item.
- Record the point, thank the person, and move on.
- Ask the person what he or she wants the group to do with the input.
- Give the person a time limit.

3. Repeating the Same Point Over and Over. Sometimes people get so caught up in something they care about that they can't let go of it and begin to sound like a "broken record." This is often a variation of number 2 above.

- Acknowledge the importance of the point and the person's passion, advocacy, or determination.
- Demonstrate that he or she has been heard and the point recorded,
- Explain how and when the point will be dealt with.
- Ask directly if the person can "let go of it for now."
- Give the person a final time-limited opportunity to make the point.

4. Talking off the Subject. Sometimes people are out of synch with the agenda and regular y talk about things that are irrelevant to the group's task or are out of sequence with the agenda.

- Ask them to relate what they are saying to the current agenda.
- Ask if the group can come back to their point and record it on a "parking lot" sheet.
- Ask others if they have anything to add to what the person said.
- Stop them. Tell them it's not appropriate now. Bring it up later under a different part of the agenda.

5. Having Side Conversations. There are always people who have to make private comments to one another or carry on another meeting with their neighbor.

- Invite them to share what is being said.
- Stop the conversation, be quiet, and look at the people talking.
- Ask them to stop.
- Ask if they would please join the group.
- Move closer to the people having the side conversation.
- Repeat the topic under discussion and ask if everyone can focus on having just one conversation at a time. Say, "Let's have one conversation," or "Let's al focus on the same thing."
- Point out that the whispering or talking is distracting.

Adapted from "The Skilled Facilitator," by Justice and Jamieson.


This week, practice one of the actions above in the groups you attend or facilitate. I'd love to hear you're experiences. Please email me your comments.

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Thank you for reading this issue of the Master Facilitator Journal.  Look for your next issue on July 16, 2002.   

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