Tip #382: How to Convert Naysayers into Facilitators

“I’ve always believed that you can think positive just as well as you can think negative. Sugar Ray Robinson

The bane of a trainer’s experience in a classroom is the participant who comes in with a negative attitude and stays that way. It would be fine if the person simply stewed in peace. Unfortunately, misery actually does appear to love company, so the disgruntled individual is much more likely to make negative statements to all and sundry in the vicinity rather than sit quietly.

There are techniques to handle behavior like this, such as using humor, agreeing to disagree, asking other participants how they feel, and, if all else fails, inviting the individual to leave.

However, the greater challenge is to co-opt the individual into constructively contributing to the training. There are two techniques that can help to convert negative behavior into positive participation. They are predicated on treating the individual with respect and validating the individual’s participation in the class. Both of these techniques also give the individual an opportunity to rise to the challenge and problem solve.

1.If the concern is valid: assign responsibility for problem resolution.

If the individual has a valid concern, ask if the individual is willing to assume responsibility for identifying possible solutions. If the individual is willing, have the individual facilitate a brainstorming session with other participants, write down their recommendations on a flip chart, and then give a report to the rest of the class.

Sometimes, the person only wants to voice a concern but not expend any more energy. If the individual is not willing to be involved in identifying possible solutions, give the individual a graceful “out.””That’s fine. You have accomplished your goal of bringing your concerns to our attention. We will be mindful of them as we move into the next section of the training. Thank you.”

2.If the concern is not valid: acknowledge, dissociate, and redirect.

This is a three- step process. First, without arguing or getting defensive, acknowledge the participant’s concern and right to express that concern. “I appreciate that you feel that way.”

Second, do what you can to dissociate the current training focus from the individual’s concern. “It sounds like that was a real problem last year. Now that a full year has passed, we have a new opportunity to get it right.” Or “Your concern about the new policy may be very valid. However, our focus today is on how to implement the policy now that it is in place.”

Third, redirect the individual’s attention to providing constructive recommendations. “Given what you know, what would you suggest to help us make implementation of that policy as effective and seamless as possible?”

Adults like to solve problems and everyone likes to feel appreciated. If you treat them with dignity and give them a positive role to play, there is a high probability that you will be able to convert naysayers into facilitators.

May your learning be sweet.


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