If you lead a Bible study group, odds are you’ve got a “Talker” in your midst. You know the type – they love to hear themselves speak and they can dominate a group’s discussion, often hijacking discussions away from the other group members. The Talker loves to be the first person to answer a question, grind a personal axe, or advance a favorite theological conviction. If you are going to grow in your ability to lead and manage your group, you’re going to have to deal with the Talker at some point, and sooner is better than later. Here are 4 tips on how to deal with the Talker in your group.
1. Call on specific people to answer questions. If you have a talker in your group, and he is dominating the group’s discussion, quickly shift your teaching strategy and begin asking a specific person to answer a question. “Bill, how do you respond to question 2?” is a way to call on someone besides the Talker to answer a question, and it sends a signal to your Talker that you value other people’s input, too.
2. Enlist the Talker to answer specific questions prior to the Bible study session. If you have a Talker, it would make good sense to pre-enlist him to answer certain questions. You might say something like, “John, I value your input during our discussion of the biblical text. Would you be prepared to answer questions 1 and 5?” Let him know that by his preparedness, he will set a good example to the others in the group and he can help you get them talking and answering the remaining questions.
3. Interrupt them and apologize. If your Talker just won’t let go of the reigns, you may have to gently interrupt him and say something like, “Tammy, thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, and I’m sorry to interrupt you, but I’d love to hear how Lynn and David might respond to the question at hand.”
4. Take the Talker out for some “coffee and confrontation.” If the Talker insists on continuing his domination of the group, it’s time to sit down and have a face-to-face conversation. This is a true measure of your leadership ability! Kindly confronting the Talker can be intimidating, and you may find it easier to simply ignore the situation at hand. But to grow as leader, you have to grow in your ability to manage more difficult people. Let the Talker know that although you value them and their contributions, they are keeping others from fully participating. Be sure to end this difficult conversation with a heartfelt “thank you” to the Talker for regularly speaking up in the group’s Bible study. Tell them how they have made a difference in the group, and how they have encouraged others to more fully join the conversation during the Bible study.