Groups normally have some participants who talk more than others. Occasionally these people monopolize the conversation and it becomes a problem. Others are not given a chance to talk, and become discouraged or silently irritated. Quiet people are not usually destructive to your group, but they may need some encouragement to participate in the discussion. Try these ideas to spark healthy interactions that include all of the participants in your Q Place.
- At your first group meeting discourage anyone from dominating the group. Ask each person to feel free to share, but be sensitive to the danger of monopolizing.
- Don’t be afraid to break in. Praise one of the monopolizer’s statements and then raise a new question and ask for others to respond.
- Do not sit directly across from someone who tends to monopolize. Monopolizers are encouraged by eye contact; limiting eye contact diffuses power.
- Don’t respond to these participants’ comments when they carry on too long. Response encourages more talk.
- If the problem persists, talk to the monopolizer alone after the meeting or over the phone. Ask for help in getting wider participation. You might say, “I’ve noticed that you and I do most of the talking. Would you help me encourage others participate more and keep me accountable to talk less next time?”
- Remind the group that silence is O.K. Say, "Many people need time to look at the question, the Scripture, or what they have written before they talk." Then ask for responses from those who haven’t spoken yet.
- After a few meetings, pass out the Participant Checklist. Read and discuss with the group.
- Remember, it is fine for some participants to be silent. Their presence is a gift. The facilitator’s role is to encourage, not to manipulate or coerce a person into talking.
- At an appropriate moment, feel free to ask what these participants think or what their experience has been. Sometimes a direct question will help onlookers feel affirmed and noticed.
- When quieter participants speak, affirm the contribution. Thank them.
- Divide the group into pairs or triads at times (for example, to share prayer requests). Smaller groupings make discussion easier for some.
- Watch for topics or interests that onlookers feel more at ease about. If they are knowledgeable or experienced in specific areas, find ways for them to talk about these. Onlookers often take ownership of behind the scenes tasks; it could be encouraging to have a job.
- Spend a few moments with the reserved person before or after the meeting. Ask how he or she feels about the group and if it is comfortable to participate. Be sure to express how much his or her contribution is appreciated.
- Help all participants to feel loved and accepted for who they are; they will be more likely to join in the conversation.