Tuesday Teaching Tip: Dealing with the Talker in your Group

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 the conversation away from other group members. The Talker loves to answer questions, 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. Here are 4 tips on how to deal with this kind of overly vocal person:

1.  Call on specific people to answer questions.  If you have a Talker in your group, quickly shift your teaching strategy and ask a specific person to answer a question.  Rather than asking the group to respond to question #2, try this instead: “Hey, Bill, how do you respond to question 2 on page 16 of our study guide?” This 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.

2.  Enlist the Talker to answer assigned questions.  If you have a Talker, pre-enlist him to answer specific questions. You might say something like, “John (the Talker), I value your input during our group’s discussion. Would you be prepared to answer questions 1 and 5?” By doing this, you can limit his input and give others in the group a chance to answer the remaining questions.

3.  Interrupt the Talker and apologize. If your Talker just won’t let go of the reigns, you may have to gently interrupt him and say something like, “John (the Talker), thanks for sharing your thoughts with us – I appreciate your insights – but I’d love to hear how a few others might respond to the question at hand. Group, what do you say about the question we’re discussing?”

4.  Take the Talker out for some “coffee and confrontation.”  If the Talker insists on continuing his or her 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. 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. If confronting someone is difficult for you, I recommend you take a look at the book Fierce Conversations.

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