Every group goes through challenges that rise and fall as they mature.
When a group comprises primarily quiet people, the first meeting may not be dynamic but challenging since people want to learn more about each other. Therefore, you may start with an icebreaker, giving them multiple choices to share. For example, you may ask, "What is your favorite food, sport, or hobby," and let them choose one subject to answer.
The discussion topics or questions should be simple and exciting to engage everyone. Therefore, delegate the task of writing discussion questions to someone willing and skilled in preparing questions. A good discussion topic and a good set of questions motivate people to participate. Always ask open-ended questions. A "yes" or "no" question discourages participation because people fear their answers might be wrong. Instead, ask the group a question and let anyone answer. After one or two people respond, you want to invite silent listeners to participate. You may say, for example, "John, I can see you listening attentively. We’d like to hear from you whenever you are ready. Is there something you want to share now on this topic?"
Since some silent listeners usually step in after a long pause, you want to pause occasionally to help them talk. Also, some may have something to share, but they only speak if someone asks them! So, if you feel someone doesn't participate, approach them after the meeting or during a break and ask, for example: "Danny, I noticed you are very respectful of others. You listen carefully and let others talk. But I'd also love to hear from you if you have something to share with the group." Once you find out they have something to share, don’t forget to ask them at the first opportunity.
Some share much deeper life experiences, while others may scratch the surface. This is normal, and you want to let newcomers know and feel comfortable sharing only as much as they want to.
As the intimacy builds up, some may unintentionally dominate the conversation, which leaves less time for others to share. Even a quiet group may turn into a dominating group. If someone dominates the conversation, approach them after the meeting or during a break. You may ask, for example, "Mark, I like your enthusiasm and energy. I need your help to encourage others to participate more. Since our time is limited, let's share less and see if someone else wants to share. Can we do that?"
Sometimes when the discussion gets out of control, dare to step in and cut off the conversation! If you are uncomfortable doing so, let a co-leader know beforehand to step in. You may say, for example, "John, John! Listen! This topic is too hot, and I’m afraid it’s not constructive. So let’s talk about another topic." Then turn around and ask if anyone wants to answer first," or ask one of the leaders what they think. If you address such problems promptly, no one will be hurt or leave the group.
Practice being a better listener than a talker. Since most leaders communicate well, they may unintentionally dominate the discussion. So, ask your co-leaders to signal you when you speak for too long.
Please click on “Perseverance” to continue.