“How do I handle the person who talks too much in a group? What about the person who talks too little?” These are questions that most small group leaders are sure to ask at one time or another.
Let’s start with Chatty Cathy. She can’t help it. She loves to talk, loves to hear herself talk and can’t help but give long-winded answers to every question the leader asks. Here are some ways to deal with C.C.
- Sit next to her. She’ll feel honored, but really what you’re trying to do is avoid eye contact. Eye contact gives permission to speak. Avoiding eye contact may keep Chatty Cathy from jumping in so quickly.
- Before asking a question, say something like, “This time I’d like to hear from the other side of the table.” or “How about somebody sitting on the couch answer first this time.” Just be sure to direct it away from Cathy.
- Enlist Cathy’s help. In a private conversation, point out that there are some people who seldom add to the discussion. Ask her to wait before answering a question until at least 3 others have spoken.
- You may need to have a one-on-one chat with Cathy where you lovingly point out the problem and look for solutions together.
- Pass a small ball around the room which only the person who is speaking holds. It will soon be clear if one person holds the ball most of the time.
Then there’s Quiet Quint. Quint comes to the group very faithfully, but seldom says a word. You know he has things to contribute to the discussion, but he just won’t. These ideas may help.
- Remember that listening is a form of participation. Some people are quiet but still engaged in the discussion. Give Quint some time.
- Spend plenty of time at the beginning of the group meeting answering an ice-breaker question. These questions are based on life experience, have no right or wrong answers, help the group get to know one-another, and are safe questions for a shy person to answer. They will help Quint get used to hearing his voice in the group.
- If you see Quint has something written in his study guide, gently ask, “Quint, I see you have something written down. Would you be willing to read your answer?”
- Every once in a while, break into pairs or triads to answer a question. Having a one-on-one discussion might be easier for Quint.