Dealing with Difficult Issues in Group

Inevitably, issues are going to arise within the group. G4-1No matter how well you facilitate the group, there will be times that the group will be difficult because these groups are comprised of hurting, broken people. The most important thing to remember when dealing with difficult people is that to the best of your ability, be sure that you are able to keep your cool. Below are some of the most common issues that might arise during group:

  1. Non-Participation

In some groups there will be participants who choose not to participate in activities or discussion with the remainder of the group. It is not uncommon for first time participants to be cautious of participating and should not be rushed but if it is noticed that after a longer period of time they are still unwilling it may need to be addressed. Group members will quickly begin to distrust that individual because they have not been open or vulnerable with the remainder of the group after having been a part of the group for some time. Distrust can spread among participants if this issue is not addressed over the course of the group leaving the group paralyzed by a distrust of each other.

Strategy: Attempt to understand the person(s) who chooses not to speak. Ask the participant in a one-on-one conversation if there is a dominate fear that prevents them from being able to speak during group? Attempt to adjust the group to provide safe ways for the participant to engage in group.

  1. Monopolizers

These individuals stand in contrast to non-participants. They control the conversation and hijack any topic that they feel has ventured too far from their issue or personal life. These participants will talk for too long and give far too many details that are often confusing and lack purpose for their story. In other words, it is all about them.

Strategy: Address the individual directly but gently. Approach them individually first and discuss their commanding presence in group. They may be unaware of how much more they are talking than other participants. Coach the participant on how to concisely tell their story or event in their story. Allow the group to help you in regaining control of the group.

  1. Conflict

Conflict is always a possibility in a group. The conflict could be between group members, a member and a leader, or even an external conflict that exist outside of the group that has been brought into the group. This can cause the group to become tense and leave it feeling unsafe for some participants.

Strategy: Never avoid the conflict or act as though it does not exist. Members within the group will have more respect for you as a leader if you lovingly navigate the conflict. Most often you will need to directly but lovingly point out the source of the conflict and recommend possible solutions.

  1. Blame-Shifting

This occurs when one individual within the group targets another member within the group and blames them for the wrong that has happened in the group. Often members desire to push blame on to someone else rather than deal with their own issues or emotions. This can be used as a form of deflection to remove the pressure from themselves.

Strategy: Address the behavior directly and use this as a moment to teach the group about the proper way to handle group conflict. Making sure to address the individual who attempted to blame other group members so that you can encourage them to discuss their feelings rather than re-focusing on someone else.

  1. Lack of Commitment

In every group there will most likely be a participant or two that does not show a high level of commitment to the group. The participant will float in and out of the group periodically, participating sparsely in group, attending without having completed the work between meetings all showing a lack of commitment to the process.

Strategy: Be direct in reminding the group as a whole but also the individual of the expectations for group members. Mention the expectations often, even when not addressing a specific issue to help remind the group of those expectations. The earlier you set expectations for the group, the easier it will be for group members to become accustomed to them and know the commitment level required for the group.

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