Interventions are techniques to use when you are confronted with disruption or problems during the meetings. They can be used separately, but are usually more effective when used in combination. Interventions attempt to be low on the confrontation scale but still are effective in getting disrupters under control.
If someone refuses to stick to the agenda, keeps bringing up the same point again and again, challenges how you are handling the meeting, etc.
If someone keeps going off the agenda, has side conversations through the whole meeting, verbally attacks others, etc.
If someone is trying to intimidate you, you feel upset and undermined; you need to enlist the help of the group, etc.
If there is a lot of tension in the room, people are resistant to being at the meeting, scared/shy about participating, you are seen as an outsider, etc.
If someone keeps expressing doubts about accomplishing anything, is bitter and puts down every suggestion, keeps bringing up the same point over and over, has power issues, etc. This means: ACCEPT that what they are saying is true, don’t ignore it; DEAL with it right there by spending some time on it, or DEFER it to the group for a decision about what to do. Also see points G and H below.
To quiet side conversations, help quiet people participate, re-focus attention, etc. You can speak volumes by making eye contact, by smiling (or not smiling), or by a change in your seating position.
When less confrontational tactics haven’t worked, someone keeps verbally attacking other participants, shuffling papers, having side conversations or cutting people off. You can deal with this issue outside the room, at a naturally-occurring break in the action.
If it’s appropriate and will not create backlash, if the group will support you, if you’ve tried less confrontational tactics already, etc.
Prevention are techniques that can help you avoid disruption from the start. If you use these “prevention” from the start of your meetings, you should keep disruption away.
Don’t just pretend to listen to what someone is saying. People can tell when you are not paying attention. Listen closely to understand the points the speaker is making, and restate these points aloud if you are unsure.
You cannot be a participant and the chair of the meeting at the same time. When you blur the lines, you risk alienating participants, causing resentment, and losing control of the meeting. Offer strategies, resources, and ideas–but not direct opinions.
Remember: “Chairperson” doesn’t mean “participant.” If you are passionate about an issue on the agenda and want to speak, make an arrangement BEFORE the meeting for someone else to chair that section.
If attacked, criticized, etc., take a “step backwards.” Think about what was said before you respond. Once you become defensive, you risk losing the group’s respect and trust, and may well make the situation worse.
This post was written by Anne Oyoo
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