Facilitation would be so easy, if it wasn’t for the participants…

If I could choose between a day spent with my computer and a day spent facilitating a loud group of disagreeing Nigerians, I’d always choose the Nigerians. There are some people who get their kick out of solving complicated things alone in front of their computer, but I’m definitely not one of them…

Yesterday I talked with my colleague Noora Aberman, who has a similar personality and we both agreed about how much energy we get out of working with people. Yes, but… what do you do, if you just don’t get a room full of people to become one group, what if your attempt of drawing a network map together is continuously hijacked by one or two people who seem to just enjoy to disagree?

What do YOU do?

One thing that happens quite easily in this situation, is that the result is somewhere in the middle between the group perception and the perception of this one person – which means that the consensus (that the group agrees on for the sake of peace) is far away from the general perception and one loud voice is strongly over-represented.

How do you deal with your own feeling (of being annoyed and under pressure to produce results in limited time), the group mood (Desire for satisfying and peaceful interactions? Or enjoying a good fight?) and the individual needs of the loud and the quiet participants constructively?

3 Responses

  1. Hi Eva,
    my answer would be:
    1) first I try to speak directly with the counterdependent person on a one-to-one basis, during a pause, to try to understand why s/he acts like that.
    2) If possible, I try to captivate his favor by showing him/her appreciation, reassuring him/her, so that s/he doesn’t feel the urge to be counterdependent.
    3) If I judge that it is a structural attitude s/he adopts to sabotage me and I have no hope to be able to change it in the time I have in my training session, I’ll try to “constrain” the bugging person with some humorous comments, to clearly show his/her counterproductive attitude to the rest of the group without sounding confrontational.
    2) I then try to empower the rest of the group to neutralize the bugging one by directly asking them to express their views on his/her attitude with regards to the achievement of the agreed goals. So metacommunicate: draw the group attention to the process and have them declare him/her “out of law”.
    3) On my end, I try to limit his/her chances of expression and the time allotted to them, interrupting him/her if needed, on the basis of my role of trainer and warranter of the training process, having to give everyone a fair chance of expression.


  2. Sometimes, we call it facipulation, where one puts his/her foot in when the decision is not a consensus. One of the process i use is put all the answers in the meta-cards and summarise the answers. It also allow quiet participants to write on their thoughts and be heard. One a worst case scenario, i remind them on the norms agreed upon in a workshop.

  3. The pressure to achieve results and the importance of learning from the process are, and I think always will be, in tension.

    Quite often, a difficult participant actually has a positive effect on the process – causing other participants to challenge their beliefs and think a deeper about the process. Recognising this will help to find the balance between giving them fee reign and cutting them off completely.

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