professional trainer - dealing with difficult people

The Talkertalker

We want people to talk of course in any training session.  We all know how important it is for individuals to engage otherwise the training can be very boring.  However, there will be a time when talkers will become a problem and that is either when a) they affect our time management or b) when other delegates are getting frustrated.    

 

The first can be a real problem if we are not careful, we will find that we are talking about a particular subject and sometimes will take us of track on a whole new tangent.   The second requires observation skills to watch the group; sometimes this can be ‘subtle signs’ such as a short glance to another delegate or a rolling of eyes and tut-tutting every time the talker opens their mouth and talks.

I must confess I am a bit of a talker, remember for any trainer it is really important that you attend training courses yourself and I love to attend training courses.  If I am honest I am a natural talker, I like to get involved and being a bit of an extravert, it is easy for me to talk.  I remember being on a training course and asking lots of questions.  The course was really interesting about selling, as a trainer and firstly a businessman I was really interested in the subject matter of dealing with people who don’t want to buy your services.  If I am honest the trainer wasn’t very good.   So poor in fact I was really looking forward to completing the trainer evaluation that would be coming at the end of the course.  I was asking loads of questions (because I was interested), what I didn’t appreciate though is how frustrated the trainer was getting with me.  I was genuinely interested and keen to know.  To be honest he wasn’t particularly forthcoming with the answers and wasn’t using the group like he should have done i.e. ‘Throwing the Monkey’.  I remember asking another question and he just stopped in his tracks, looked me straight in the eye and said, “No Ralph the problem is you…”  I think he thought he had sorted me out there and then, he turned on his heels and proceeded to carry on.  What he didn’t see though, which I observed, was everyone else in the group.  Other delegates gave me the look of “You have just been told off”, I think one actually winced.  The lady sat next to me, who was a little mischievous, smiled and without saying anything, started asking the trainer more questions.  She actually told me in the coffee break that she was going to wind him up.  Also at the break a couple of people came up to me to ask if I had learnt from my telling off!  What the trainer didn’t realise is that he had turned the group against him.  This is easily done if you are not careful.  During that course several of us went back to our school days where we were looking for opportunities to wind the teacher up.  That’s what can happen if we turn the group against us.

The best way of dealing with talkers is keeping them engaged.  Sometimes talkers will get a feeling from the rest of the group that their continuous involvement is frustrating others.   Sometimes though they may either not know or appreciate and sometimes we may have to get them to calm down a little either because they are annoying everyone else or because of time.  One way of slowing them down is to ask them a really hard question, the theory being that you know more about the subject matter than they do.  When they don’t know the answer we refer the question to the rest of the group, with skill and reasoning we can get the answer from the group.  When this is achieved we go straight back to the talker and without saying anything we point out that they don’t really know everything!  Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t.   With nice talkers (and there are loads) we may need to reinforce the rules or get the group to.  Use language like, “That’s a great point and I think where that really works is...  If we all agree (open body language to rules) we must carry on otherwise our time management area might not be met (open body language to rules).  Obviously we would have suggested time management in the ‘rules activity’ from the outset.  It nearly always comes up when we are doing rules but if it doesn’t then you must ensure it is mentioned at some stage during the activity. 

Remember there are many talkers out there (I’m a talker) and we must lay the ground rules out from the outset so we can reinforce them when we need to.   With real issue talkers then we must deal with them otherwise they can dominate and if we are not careful take over!  I have seen this happen a lot in training and as I keep saying when does it become an issue?  It becomes an issue when we are not meeting our objectives and when other delegates are having their experience disrupted.  In this situation when everything else has been tried, as a last resort you have no option but to get the group to say something.  If they have had enough, and you can observe this by watching their body language they will almost certainly will say something.  Many will want to but will want permission to do so and you need to give them permission by open body language to the group and asking, “What do you think…”  If they are frustrated enough someone will say something. 

Ralph

 

 

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