SIDS Program Manual Trainer's Guide SIDS & Infant Death Program Manual and Trainer's Guide

Appendix C

Getting Started

Dealing With Challenging Participants

Type of participant: Why are they challenging? Ways to work effectively with this type of participant:

Know-it-alls May actually have a lot of information about the topic but still could benefit from the experiences and perspectives of others.

Acknowledge that they are a wealth of information.

Approach them during a break and ask for their assistance in answering a specific question.

At the same time, express your concern that you want to encourage everyone to participate and enlist his or her help in doing so.

"I'm only here because I have to be." May have been required to attend the workshop, yet has no particular personal interest in the topic.

Acknowledge that you know that some of the participants are present because they have to be.

Ask for their assistance in making this a meaningful experience.

Specifically ask,"How can I make this workshop helpful to you?"


May be genuinely curious.

May be testing you by putting you on the spot.

May have an opinion but not confident enough to express it.

Acknowledge that they seem to have a lot of questions about a particular topic.

If the questions seem like legitimate attempts to gain content information that other members of the group already know, tell them that you will be happy to work with them later to fill in the gaps or put the question on the parking lot.

Reframe or refocus. Send the questions back to the questioner.

Establish a buddy system and ask for volunteers who would be willing to meet with them.


May be eager or a show- off.

May be exceptionally well-informed and anxious to show it, or just naturally wordy.

May need to be heard because they are still working through difficult emotional issues.

May take time away from other participants.

Don't be embarrassing or sarcastic. You may need their help later. Slow them down with some difficult questions or difficult tasks (such as group leader).

Interrupt tactfully with something like: "That's an interesting point. Now let's see what the rest of the group thinks of it."

In general, let the group take care of them as much as possible.

  • Avoid eye contact.
  • Give them a role.
  • State that your role is to keep people on time.
  • Quick interruptions - move to them and put your hand on his or her shoulder.
  • Paraphrase what they say and move on.
  • Acknowledge that their stories are important and you and others would love to hear them later or after the workshop.


Have combative personalities.

May not want to be at the workshop.

May be upset by personal/ family health issues.

May upset other participants.

Keep your own temper firmly in check. Don't let the group get excited either.

Honestly try to find merit in one of their points, or get the group to do it, then move on to something else. Say something like,"That was a good point" or "We've heard a lot from ( person's name), who else has some ideas?"

If facts are misstated, ask the group for their thoughts. Let them turn it down.

As a last resort, talk with them in private, find out what's going on, and ask for cooperation. For example, say,"Let's talk at break/end of session. How can we be on the same team?"

Give them a role.