Love the One You're With

How to manage difficult personalities within your small group

The group was new—we had only been together for five or six weeks. That's why I was happy to see a new couple walk into the room. I was also happy to see that everyone greeted them warmly. But about 30 minutes into our meeting, the warm temperature of the group began to cool. The regular members began to exchange looks across the room, and the question on everyone's mind was, "Who invited these people?"

The couple was very nice and quite attractive, and by all appearances should have fit into the group well—but boy could she talk! Once she got started, there was no stopping her. She told stories that only occasionally related to what the group was talking about. These stories started out sounding interesting, and some of them even hinted at having a point. But after another ten minutes, the eyes of group members would gloss over, and the host may as well have brought out a bundle of pillows and blankets.

Does that sound familiar? It should. Every group has them: the difficult personality. They come in all flavors and sizes, and our ability as leaders to manage these personalities is one of the keys to effective small-group leadership.

Introductory Activity

If you're using this article as training material for several group leaders, consider using the following activity to introduce some of the different types of difficult personalities, and to get everyone thinking about their impact on a group. If you're reading this solo, try to imagine how these personalities would impact your own group.

Pick four volunteers, and hand them each a piece of paper with one of the following personalities on them. Ask each volunteer to read their personality out loud.

  • Monopolizing Mike: Mike talks from the moment he enters the room until the moment he leaves. He shares the same stories over and over whether they are relevant to the subject of group time or not. When Mike begins to talk, the group settles in for the long haul and appears bored and restless, and often the energy is drained from the discussion time.

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