Five Tips for Dealing with Difficult Participants
Managing difficult participants—they seem to breed in every classroom. Trainers clamour for any tricks they can put in their goody bag to pull out when needed. Here are some tips on working with unwilling or just unaware but difficult trainees from author John Townsend.
When you disagree with a participant’s remarks or arguments but don’t wish to embarrass them:
Example: “Yes, you are absolutely right that this situation is extremely common. I’m not sure that this is the only way to handle it, however. Has anyone else found another way to deal with it?”
When words fail you, a non-verbal signal can be very effective in handling participant interventions. For example:
This is the most basic and non-negotiable of all techniques. Simply give a receipt for every contribution made by any participant!
Whenever a discussion starts to wander or when you are under pressure from the clock or from a participant, refocus by diverting the group’s attention to something else:
You and Me Technique
When faced with “experts” or “know alls” who frequently interrupt, you need to ask them to allow others to have their say. With the ‘You and Me Technique’ you make it clear, verbally or non-verbally, that you know they know but that you also want to hear from the other, less knowledgeable members of the group.
Non-verbally this can be done with eyebrow movements, a wink, a smile and some blocking hand movements. Always try and keep the interrupter on your side. Make them feel that they are co-trainers: you and me against the others.
Townsend is an international trainer of trainers and founder of Master Trainer Institute near Geneva, Switzerland. The techniques above are from The Managing Difficult Participants Pocketbook published by Management Pocketbooks.