Group Meeting Disrupters

MEETING DISRUPTERS: If two participants are carrying on a personal discussion that interferes with a meeting, direct a clear and simple question to one of them. In order to avoid embarrassing them, address them by name before asking the question. An alternative is to restate a previously expressed suggestion and then ask them for an opinion.

HECKLERS: A participant with a negative viewpoint can continually undermine the flow of a meeting with snide comments or emotional tirades. Don’t argue or chastise this person. Focusing attention on emotional barriers, such as a heckler, deflects responsibility away from participants and the issue at hand. If you lose your cool, the heckler wins. Beat a heckler at his/her own game by asking the person what they would do. Ask the same questions of other participants by asking the same question. Raise questions that bring in the other sides of the issue or put responsibility on the individual by taking a positive approach to redefining the problem. If the heckler continues to be disruptive, chances are the group will take care of it, since the heckler is now heckling them.

ENEMIES: If you know two participants with conflicting viewpoints are going to attend your meeting, reduce the conflict with carefully planned seating arrangements. Discourage “dividing up sides”, which occurs when participants with opposing views line up on opposite sides of the table. Break up opposing groups since any united front will promote rigidity and entrenchment in preconceived ideas. When people are separated physically, they naturally tend to think separately and less dogmatically. When two individuals are continually at odds, a different approach may work: seat them side by side. Their physical proximity often lessens volume, intensity and verbal attacks are less likely.

SORE LOSERS: Voting is the quickest, most clear-cut method of making group decision. However, it may also be the least effective. Taking a vote may force participants to make a choice before they are prepared which divides the group into “winning” and “losing” camps. Those who lose may feel that their position did not get a fair hearing which results in their lack of motivation to help implement the winners decision. A more productive way to reach a decision is through consensus. The matter should be discussed until all of the participants are ready to accept the solution. Although everyone may not feel like a winner, they all can have greater satisfaction by contributing to the solution.