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People monopolizing the group’s time

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Q: As we seek to create a culture of honesty and vulnerability in our small group, how do we maintain a healthy community when group members monopolize the group’s time by “emotionally dumping”? A: Who of us hasn’t experienced someone who, when you ask, “How was your week?” responds with a perso…
By Seth Barnes
Q: As we seek to create a culture of honesty and vulnerability in our small group, how do we maintain a healthy community when group members monopolize the group’s time by “emotionally dumping”?

A: Who of us hasn’t experienced someone who, when you ask, “How was your week?” responds with a personal monologue so long and boring that it sucks all the oxygen out of the conversation, leaving no time for anyone else to talk?

My favorite comedian, Brian Regan, talks about the “Me Monster.” The Me Monster is that overwhelming individual who can hardly wait for you to finish saying your sentence so he can jump in and begin talking about himself. As leaders, we need to give a person like this some guidelines.

The problem is, we want to create a relaxed atmosphere where people can share their hearts, yet, we have the responsibility to move the group towards unity. Call a person on their monopolizing behavior, and you potentially may shame and disenfranchise them. But allow them to take over your time, and everyone fidgets and begins to suffocate.

bobThe answer is two-fold. If you can let it go during the meeting, the best thing to do is to talk to them individually outside the group setting.

Say something like this, “Bob (as in the movie, What About Bob), I noticed you had a lot to say in last night’s meeting. I need you to help me out next time. You see, as the facilitator, I need to make sure that everyone gets an equal opportunity to talk. I didn’t want to put you on the spot, but could you help me with that?”

Bob keeps his dignity and you’ve performed your role as leader – everyone wins. And if the behavior continues, do what spouses everywhere do and develop a signal between the two of you that acts as a kick in the shins under the table to stop a compulsive-but-well-meaning-Bob in his tracks.

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