How to Deal with People Who Dominate Group Conversations

By Steve Zuieback · Posted Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Spock – “The Needs of the Many Outweigh the Needs of the Few, or the One”

Too often teams and organizations are paralyzed by action of an opposing stance of one person or a small group of people. Whereas it is true that many creative breakthroughs occur from outliers in an organization, the real question is whether these outliers have any credibility. In other words, is anyone actually listening to them.


How to spot a dominate person who has lost credibility

As a facilitator this can easily be determined by watching the group dynamics surrounding these outliers. Do people maintain eye contact and are their bodies facing toward these people, or do most people break eye contact and turn away from these people when they speak. If it is the later, this person has lost credibiity and influence in the group.


What you can do

The facilitator has a couple of choices when these outliers lack credibility. They can spend some of their own permission and credibility if they believe the person has something constructive to offer or they can minimize the restraining impact of such an individual.


I would always suggest that the first goal would be to unite this person back to their team or organization if possible. If this can’t be done and the person is restraining the system, the facilitator should consider the following steps:


  1. Go visual with the comments of the person by charting their idea on a flip chart or whiteboard. Make certain that you have captured their complete point and have identified their underlying values and beliefs.
  2. When the person persists on an idea, point to their visually captured remarks and ask if anything was missed.
  3. If they still persist, speak to them at a break. The break should be taken as soon as is possible to break the pattern. Counsel them that you have given them plenty of airtime and that the group wants to move on. Share with them what you see as a facilitator that leads you to the conclusion that the group wants to move on. This might include specific behaviors such as:
  • Nobody in the group is making eye contact with them when they speak.
  • Most or all people in the group are turning their bodies away from them when they speak.
  • People are rolling their eyes and sighing when they speak.


4.   If they continue to perseverate on their point, the facilitator will need to intervene and as a last resort ask them to leave the meeting. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one”.


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