I tried to stifle my sigh and mask my aggravation when Sally (not her real name) once again took over the conversation in our Bible study.
While Sally often had great insight and stories to share, week after week after week she had dominated our Bible study group conversation.
If there was a quiet moment she jumped in, often changing the topic or direction of our discussion.
My heart ached of our Bible study leader, the new ladies in our Bible study group, and those quieter personalities that needed time and space to share.
My bet is you’ve also sat in a Bible study or team meeting where someone frequently dominated the conversation.
Unfortunately it only takes one person to derail the conversation and get the whole group off task. Squirrel?
While I doubt (and I pray) their intention is not to be disruptive or disrespectful, if left unchecked that person can damage the progress and purpose of the group.
If you notice someone is continually:
- Changing the topic
- Getting stuck on a point or topic
You’re likely going to need to step in and take back control of the group.
For most of us that doesn’t come naturally.
What do you do? What can you say to get refocus your group?
What to do and what to say when your team or group has gotten off task:
1. Apologize – “I’m sorry, our time is short, we must move on.” “While I wish we could park here, we need to keep moving to get through all of our discussion questions/agenda items.”
2. Ask others to speak up – “I’d like to hear from someone who hasn’t answered/spoken yet.” “Let’s hear from someone on this side of the room.” “Katie, what do you have for number 5?”
3. Take a defensive position – Literally sit right next to the person in the group that has been over-participating. Sometimes a simple touch on their arm can let them know they’ve gone on long enough. You may need to turn sideways so your back is facing them and then ask the question to the rest of the group.
4. Blame it on the clock – “We’ve only got 15 minutes left. We’ve got to move on so we’ll finish on time.” “I’m sorry, but if we’re going to finish by 11:30, we’ll have to move on.”
5. Continue the conversation after – “That’s a great question/idea/concern I’d love to talk with you about it after class/our meeting.”
6. Before your group/meeting begins remind them of one or two of your group rules/guidelines. “Please help me to keep our group on track today so we can get through all of our discussion questions/agenda items.” “I’d like to hear from everyone in our group today. Remember that silence is okay – it gives everyone time to form and share their opinions and ideas.” “While we won’t have time for everyone to share an answer to every question, I do want to hear from everyone in our group before our time is over.”
7. Hold a one-on-one training session – Sometimes group members aren’t aware their behavior is a problem. Touch base via a phone call or over coffee. Ask them how they feel the group is going. If they don’t bring up any of the issues on their own, gently share your concern that others in the group aren’t sharing or participating as much as they could. Enlist their help in getting better group participation. Brainstorm specific ideas on how they could help (letting others answer before sharing, withholding their comments, verbally encouraging others in the group to share, limiting the number of times they respond, pre-selecting a few questions to answer, etc.).
Chances are just one comment won’t be enough to keep the group on task.
Be ready to step in repeatedly to refocus the group.
The more you do it the easier it becomes and the more natural it will feel.
All that being said, we must be attentive to the Holy Spirit.
There are definitely times when God intercedes and life changing sharing takes place.
However, that deeper level of transparency is most likely to take place in a group where every woman feels comfortable sharing and knows they’ll be heard.
What other tips do you have for dealing with a dominating group member?
Father God, open our eyes to see those in our groups that are getting our group off task. Help us to be kind and gracious in refocusing our group. Help us to have the courage to remind and re-train our groups and teams when things have gotten out of control. May the women in our groups grow to love and respect one another. Help us, Jesus, as we seek to be good leaders. INJIP
You may also want to read:
The One Thing Every Group Leader Needs to Learn
Two Ways You Can Encourage Group Discussion
A Code of Conduct for Small Groups
Tips & Tools for Bible Study Facilitators and Group Leaders
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