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Training Tip

Involving Those Introverts by Cathy Bolger

Have you ever felt frustrated when trying to get everyone to participate? Have you ever used phrases like "let's hear from someone we haven't heard from yet" when it seemed that a few participants were dominating discussion? Following are some ideas to encourage more balanced participation:

Silent Generation and Sequenced Participation

One of the best techniques I know to help ensure participation of everyone is silent generation followed by sequenced participation, also called "round robin." For instance, I ask participants in my Presentation Skills training to think for a few minutes (silent generation) about characteristics of the best presenters they have experienced. I also ask them to write down their ideas. I then give each participant a turn, in order, to give one characteristic of a good presenter (sequenced participation).

By using silent generation followed by sequenced participation, all participants have an opportunity to give input. In addition, by beginning with silent generation, time is allowed for participants to formulate ideas. Introverts who prefer to process ideas internally will appreciate this.

Group-Determined Ground Rules

On occasion, I have asked a participants to come up with their own ground rules. Following are examples of ground rules which seem to increase balanced participation:

  1. Everyone's ideas are important.
  2. One person speaks at a time.
  3. No interrupting is allowed.
  4. No judging ideas.
If the group members decide on their own ground rules, they seem likely to follow and enforce them, and thus, participation is improved.

Ask the Extroverts to Hold Back

I watched Barbara Sher, author of Wishcraft How to Get What You Really Want, do this effectively. The class members were in groups of three, discussing career goals. She asked the extroverts, or the people who usually talk first, to make sure other people in the group talked first. The result was a higher level of participation. In addition, some of the extroverts mentioned relief at having "permission" to sit back for a change.

Next time a few people seem to be dominating your training, try one of the above ideas.

Cathy Bolger is a San Diego-based trainer, specializing in Presentation, Meeting and Conflict Management Skills. She can be reached at Cathy@CathyBolger.com or 619 294-2511.

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