How to deal with challenging behaviors (in group coaching sessions)


Group dynamics can be tricky.

Each participant brings with them a unique history, learning style, and way of expressing themselves. Group coaching can make people feel vulnerable and anxious. Members come in with big goals and a strong desire for change, and they are sharing their most precious ideas, hopes, and dreams. So, sometimes, emotions are going to run high and people will act out.

When people get defensive, nervous or insecure, negative behaviors can surface: challenging all suggestions, disengaging, stealing the show, or positioning themselves as the resident expert on all topics.

As a coach, it is your job to get a handle on any negativity and guide the conversation and energy to something more positive. From the first meeting, brainstorm with the group to decide ground rules and create a group culture everybody can get behind.

But people will still step out of bounds. As a coach, your best tool to address any of these negative behaviors is acknowledgment. Acknowledge what they are feeling and expressing and address the issue up front.

* Invite them to offer solutions
* Encourage them to be open to other points of view and remind them of the benefits of doing so
* Acknowledge the contributions or points they’ve made and then gently turn conversation back to the group
* Look for the positives in what they are expressing
* Acknowledge your own biases and viewpoints that may be clouding your judgment
* And sometimes, it may be necessary to take them aside and privately and constructively discuss the behavior

Ultimately, you are responsible for the energy of the group. If negativity rules the day, progress will be stalled and growth stunted. Work with your clients to keep it positive and forward-looking.

Keep it positive,

Jane Gardner