Personalities in meetings: Making sure everyone’s voice is heard

How to manage personalities they may be challenging in a meeting and allowing everyone to be heard.

Bringing a group of individuals together for a meeting can be both rewarding and challenging. The energy individuals bring to a group meeting can be contagious and energize the entire group. The opposite may occur when you have individuals in a group that may have had a bad day, or in general a personality that tends to be negative. No matter what personalities the individuals bring to the group, managing the individuals and their personalities can make or break a group. This is the third in a series of articles that examines challenging behavior and the best ways to address it in meetings.

Michigan State University Extension 4-H Bulletin 314D, Effective Control of Meetings, identifies 11 different types of personalities and how they affect meetings. For this article we will examine the stubborn/obstinate personality, the individuals that won’t talk and the individuals that are wrong. The stubborn/obstinate individuals can be described as individuals that won’t budge or give, they are often in favor of their own viewpoint, regardless of the logic of the other side. These individuals either can’t or won’t consider viewpoints of others. In working with these individuals, consider having a pre-meeting discussion with the individual regarding what is on the agenda in order for them to talk one –on-one regarding their opinions, as often they just need to be heard. Draw out their objection with questions. Turn it over to the “group” to make final decision on comments and concerns.

The individual in the meeting that “won’t talk” often is a quiet individual. They may be bored, indifferent, superior, timid or insecure when talking in a group. Reacting to this individual will depend on your perception of why they won’t talk. Get to know this individual so you understand clearly where they are coming from. If they are bored, arouse interest by asking for their opinion. If they are indifferent, often small group work, where they talk one-on-one with their neighbor and then share to the larger group gets everyone involved. If the individual is the superior type, ask for their view, drawing on their “expert” role but don’t over due at the expense of the entire group. If the individual is insecure, usually one-on-one conversations with the participant before and during the meeting will help them engage. Be sure to not simply overlook quiet participants in meetings. It’s often observers that have the most to offer a group, ask for their input regularly.

Sometime individuals in the group offer comments that are obviously incorrect. This behavior is referred to as the “definitely wrong” role. When individuals offer incorrect information, it is important we politely correct the misinformation so group work and decisions are not based on in correct information. Politely say, “I can see how you feel,” or “that’s one way or looking at it,” and tactfully correct the comment. For whatever reason this person is giving misinformation, it must be handled tactfully, since you are flatly contradicting them. Attempt to engage other group members in correcting information as a way to remove you from the role of constantly contradicting the information. Try asking, “is this how others see it or understand it?”

Being a leader of a group and a group meeting can be a challenging role. Understanding individuals and their personalities will make a leader’s job easier and more rewarding. Appreciating individuals in a meeting for their strengths and weaknesses will allow a leader to guide the group through meaningful meetings where accomplishments can be met for the better of the larger group. Take time to develop relationships and know individual member in your group. The time and energy individuals put in to knowing and developing a relationship with other members of their group will allow for a higher level of trust, richer conversations and ultimately success for the group.

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