Group Leadership Skills: Part 3


If you’re watching this video, chances are you have an overly talkative person in your group. We’re going to give you some tips for dealing with this. I’m Alex Lyon and Communication Coach is here to help you increase your skills to help you lead your teams with more excellence. As I mentioned, if you’re tuning in you have a overly talkative person in your group. So let’s unpack why this is in the first place and look at some tips for dealing with it. The first thing to realize is that in most cases the overly talkative people don’t realize that they’re causing a little bit of a imbalance or a problem. In fact, it probably started early on in the group where you tried to get a discussion going as the leader. Nobody else talked and so they felt like they wanted to jump in to break the ice, kind of the way we want people to be the first one at the buffet. Once someone goes at the buffet, everybody can go to the buffet. So they feel like by jumping in, they’re helping break the ice and warm things up. Then it starts to sometimes set into a pattern where nobody talks so they always want to talk. Nobody talks so they always want to talk. Cause they feel obligated and responsible. Extroverted people don’t like a lot of silence. And so if there’s not other people talking they’re going to fill that silence and they’re gonna feel weird about even a couple of seconds of silence. So a lot of times it’s not really because they’re trying to dominate, it’s because they’re trying to help. Now on the other side of the coin sometimes people are a little dysfunctional. They’re talking too much because they want attention, they want the group to be all about them, they have insecurities, maybe they have control issues. So sometimes it’s not the case they’re trying to help. However, there are some things to do that you can do in either case to help move things in a positive direction. So the first thing you can do is at the beginning if you’re already into this, then we’ll talk about that in a moment, but at the beginning a new group a new project you have to frame and set the tone for the expectations of that group. I have seen great success with this in the groups that I’ve run over the years. And it sounds like this. In this group, we’re going to have a lot of opportunity for discussion. I want to make sure that EVERYBODY gets a chance to contribute. So, if you’re really talkative member, once you’ve participated, keep quiet and give the other people a chance to jump in. They may be more time to think then you. And it sounds really direct but if you say this in the first night at first meeting then no one feels targeted. Because you’re not embarrassing or calling them out. You’re talking about the general tone that you want to set for the group. And then once you lay it down there the first night, you can always refer back to it. Now let’s say you’re going to first or second or third meeting and there is an overly talkative person, here’s a couple of verbal prompts that would help you break this pattern. Let’s say John is talking a little bit too much, here’s a little verbal prompt you can use. Thank you, John. I appreciate your contribution. Now, I’d like to now hear from some of the people we haven’t heard from yet. And that’s a signal to both John and from those other people that it’s – we’re going to change the tone a little bit. Other people are now going to get their chance to talk. Here’s another verbal prompt. If you haven’t talked in awhile, now is your chance to jump in. Another, just a simple way to signal once again it’s their turn not yours. And you can develop your own verbal prompts in your own style, whatever feels most comfortable. But it’s usually once you’ve set the tone in the beginning of the group, that’s a totally normal way to have the conversation. I’ve done this hundreds and hundreds of times and no one has ever even looked remotely offended. In fact, often times that people who were the most talkative don’t feel embarrassed at all. They want to again fill that gap when those other people don’t step up. So you might need more advanced strategies. So here’s another strategy. Ask people to write something down. So you say let’s take 30 seconds. I want to each jot down a talking point and then we’ll discuss. And that way, even the introverted people have something in front of them and it signals, of course, to overly talkative member that they’re going to have one turn like every body else. You can also ask everybody if it’s a bigger group to pair up quickly and discuss their own individual comments with each other and then with the group. And that will usually warm up the quieter people so they’ll feel like they have a little bit more momentum moving into the overall group discussion. If it’s a group of like 10 or 12 or more, then pairing up sometimes will jump-start the discussion among the quieter people. Now let’s say none of these things work. And you have a person who is driven by some compulsion that constantly talk. Maybe in the first week you set the tone or you know it’s just not working. You have to talk to them one-on-one. You have to. They’re not going to get the hint. If they haven’t gotten the hint yet, they’re not going to unless you talk to them one-on-one. So you have to step up say, Hey, before we begin tonight, can I talk to you. And you have to have what could be an uncomfortable situation. Here’s how to make it better, though. Talk to them and enlist their help. So talk to them in ways that holds them up as a group leader, because they are really our already acting as a group leader. Say, Look you always bring a lot to the group– and be truthful but–you always bring a lot of the group. You always have a great opinion. Unfortunately, some of the other group members are not talking enough yet and to help them pull their weight a little more, I’m gonna need you to dial up back, look around, make direct eye contact with those people and encourage them non-verbally to participate. So you can start to begin a polite face-attentive discussion with them about managing their participation In most cases, they will get the hint and they will start doing that. You may, if push comes to shove, have to have this conversation a couple of weeks in a row. I strongly recommend as a last resort only to say something in front of the group. If you say something in front of the group, it’s going to embarrass them and there’s an old rule of thumb where you praise publicly you criticize privately. And if you tell them to be quiet more directly in a group setting they’re going to feel criticized and everybody else is going to feel that that negative tone too. So try to not do that. If you have to interrupt them, let’s say they’re going on and on for a 10-minute talking turn, if you have to interrupt them do so as politely as possible. So, you know, I hate to interrupt. We need to move on . . . And I hear what you’re saying . . . But, if it’s okay with you and what I want to do is I want to move on. And, you know, obviously doesn’t have to be okay with them but you want to be as polite as you can to interrupt them. You know, hold up your finger, I just want to interrupt. Sorry to interrupt. I know your point you’re making is really good. Whatever you can do to be face attentive to do so and then transition. And believe me, sometimes they’re on such a rant that they don’t know how to stop talking and they may need your help. So you might be doing them a favor without realizing. They don’t know how to bring your thoughts to a close. So some of this is a little higher level but if in the beginning you set a tone that you expect about equal participation to make a more dynamic discussion among everybody you’re going to get great results. So question of the day for you: How do you manage overly talkative people? What are your best strategies? I would love to hear your tips below in the comments section and then we’ll start a little conversation. I’m pretty good at responding to almost every single comment. So test me on that and see if I respond. So thanks. God bless. And I hope you get to use the tips in this video in your very next meeting.

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