Nov 10 2011

Dealing with Difficult Behaviour

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Mutual understanding, not acceptance, is the key with difficult behaviour. Once you understand a problem you can explain your expectations in relation to it. Active listening skills can help you reach mutual understanding. Active listening is difficult at the best of times, so when you’re in the middle of facilitating, you can expect it to be even harder. But if you don’t take the time to understand a difficult participant, the situation can worsen.

When you actively listen to a meeting attendee, follow these four steps, which will then lead to the fifth step where you move from listening to explaining your point of view.

  1. Ask about the person’s point of view, position,  or description of the situation.
  2. Restate back what you heard.
  3. Ask the person to fill in the blanks you may have missed.
  4. Restate what you heard until the person feels you understand.

Now state your position. Speak for yourself. Use “I” statements; do not accuse or blame.

When you reach step five, the participant will either respond or react to your request. A response suggests your position has been received positively. Chances are you are going to be able to resolve the issue. A reaction, on the other hand, means your position has met with a negative reception. Despite your active listening, the person rejects, ignores or verbally attacks your position. When the person reacts, you will need to start the active listening process again. This, of course, takes time, so you need to determine what is an appropriate use of your time in view of the meeting agenda, goals, and outcomes. Active listening is a learned skill and, like any skill, the better you get at it, the more efficient your use of time.

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