Every meeting provides a new stage for the theatrical performances orchestrated by certain group dynamics. Sometimes you would almost believe yourself in an epic tragicomedy where several characters seem to conspire to make your life hell. But who are they? And how can you limit the damages they cause or even use the drama to your advantage?
The Shy Wallflower, the Big Mouth, Mister Know-It-All… We have probably all met them at one point or another. These profiles, among others, are often difficult to manage for the initiator of the meeting. So, in this blog post we will have a closer look at seven of these disruptive profiles and try to analyze the desires that might hide behind their disturbing behavior. We will also present different approaches to satisfy or, on the contrary, appease these desires and counter their negative impact. Maybe they can even be turned into valuable assets…
1. The Shy Wallflower
The Shy Wallflower blushes when you look him into his eyes He hides behind the screen of his laptop as soon as the presenter asks a question
The underlying desire: Be protected
For the Shy Wallflower meetings are pure torture because he risks to be exposed to general attention at any different moment. As a result, he expects the presenter to shield him from the spotlight.
Manage the Shy Wallflower
Instead of insisting openly on his participation, it is in everybody’s best interest to let the Shy Wallflower participate on his own terms.
- Give him the opportunity to solicit other participants in writing by using interactive tools. As a result, he is a lot more likely to share his ideas.
- Include the Shy Wallflower’s idea in the written record of the meeting without necessarily mentioning his name orally. Include his name next to his written contributions instead.
2. The Naïve
The Naïve doesn’t care about any of the strategic games within the organization and speaks her mind, often without paying particular attention to the words she chooses. Her phrases are straightforward and she is not afraid of calling out painful truths. However, she is anything but a diplomat and that could cost her dearly.
The underlying desire: Simplicity
The Naïve is not an idiot. She might be a young recruit who is unfamiliar with corporate policies or a more experienced colleague who is tired of office codes. Generally, she wants to make positive and impactful contributions – in the simplest way possible.
Manage the Naïve
The Naïve is invaluable in any organization because she is a generator of ideas who is skilled at thinking outside the box. That is why the presenter needs to:
- Protect her within the organization or during particularly political meetings. Take her ideas into account all while making sure to stop her before she goes too far.
- Solicit her abundantly during brainstorming sessions because she will help the company explore new territories.
3. The Sleepy Head
The Sleepy Head tends to pick his nose and takes his time to answer questions. Two types of Sleepy Heads can be distinguished: the natural Sleepy Head, fortunately rare, and the circumstantial Sleepy Head, present a lot more frequently. The latter is, quite simply, bored to death by your meeting.
The underlying desire: Not to be disturbed
The Sleepy Head is so terribly bored that he just dozes off. The meeting is of absolutely no interest to him and so he quite naturally slides into nap mode. He fears above all to be disturbed.
Manage the Sleepy Head
The most efficient antidotes for the Sleepy Head’s boredom are curiosity, interest and excitement.
- Try to motivate him by involving him in discussions by referring to an area of interest to him.
- Gamify meetings with original techniques such as an idea avalanche, a session of 15 to 30 minutes with the goal to come up with several possible propositions for any given topic. Mobile applications and other interactivity tools can simplify this exercise.
4. Miss Occupied
Miss Occupied’s eyes are glued to her smartphone. At the end of the day, she oftentimes asks question that have been subject to lengthy discussions all throughout the meeting.
The underlying desire: Have fun
This person has a lot of energy – but no desire to put it at the service of your meeting. She takes advantage of any opportunity that presents itself to go after other activities.
Manage Miss Occupied
Forget about your high school teacher’s methods who would try to shame Miss Occupied by asking questions about what has just been said. If she loses face, you risk never hearing another word leave her lips. On the contrary, channel her energy by assigning her a mission: To take notes for a report, write down ideas on the whiteboard etc. The more you involve her, preferably with fun little tasks, the less likely she will be to seek distraction elsewhere.
5. The Big Mouth
The Big Mouth is easily recognizable: He seems to have an opinion on everything and takes any opportunity that comes his way to express his musings in lengthy monologues. Furthermore, he takes a malicious delight in plucking apart the conclusions your team reaches at the end of the meeting.
The underlying desire: Reaffirm his own value
While the Big Mouth’s ego seems oversized, it might really just be hurt or fragile. The sheer number and the insistence of his contributions reflect his hidden lack of self-esteem. By constantly testing your and the team’s limits, he wants to know how far he can go before being rejected. Thereby, he seeks to reaffirm his own value.
Manage the Big Mouth
- Opposing the Big Mouth will have little impact. Confrontation is exactly what he is looking for and so he will find a way to use your energy against you. Instead, try to find value in his contributions. That will help disorient his energy and soothe his hurt ego.
- Do not react to the Big Mouth’s provocations. Respond instead. In the first case, you are entering his game of action-reaction. In the second case, you provide an appropriate and serene answer. In a calm but firm tone of voice, interrupt the interrupter and repeat the rules of the meeting that apply to everybody alike: Listen, respect, speak only when it is your turn. Speak slowly and use breaks. Then, give other participants the floor.
6. The Pessimist
The Pessimist loves to underline how much worse her own situation is than anything that anybody else might have brought up. Her logical mind infallibly works out that the A+B of your solution is doomed to fail. There are no solutions anyways.
The underlying desire: Undermine the morale of everybody else and be comforted
Two hypotheses are possible concerning the Pessimist’s underlying desires. Certain Pessimists are probably sad and worried souls who long to be comforted. Others might just take a malicious delight in discouraging their colleagues.
Manage the Pessimist
- Try to find value in the observations of the Pessimist by spotting points that might otherwise have been missed.
- Concentrate her negativity on a single point of her argumentation. Take time to recognize and acknowledge the truth this point holds. Then, move on to other topics and don’t get back to the Pessimist’s remarks.
7. Mister Know-It-All
Mister Know-It-All begins almost all of his sentences with a capital “I”. He confidently presents his version of the events as the absolute truth – without so much as a proof, justification or concrete example.
The underlying desire: Be seen
Mister Know-It-All is especially talkative when a decision maker or supervisor is present. He wants to shine and be seen.
Manage the Know-It-All
Satisfy Mister Know-It-All’s underlying desire and grant him his moment in the spotlight by underlining one or two valuable points in his contribution. However, establish their value by adding the solid arguments they lack. Then, ensure that the other participants can also express their ideas freely without Mister Know-It-All cutting them off.