Does Not Talk?

I am not sure who presents a tougher challenge to the facilitator: the participant who talks too much or the one who talks too little. It is easy to ignore the silent ones than the excessive talkers. Remember, however, that you pay now or pay later. Silence does not always mean consent. It may mean that the uncommunicative participant is plotting future sabotage.

Encouraging the silent types to talk will help ensure a much more inclusive solution and speed up the implementation. Also it will set a model for equal participation from everyone.

Here are some suggestions for dealing with participants who don't participate:

  • Reduce the anxiety level by using an alternative format. For example, break the large group into dyads for preliminary sharing of ideas. Then ask each pair to give a summary report of their discussion.
  • Ask the participants to write their concerns, comments, suggestions, or whatever on index cards. Then ask the team to cluster these cards and organize them into themes.
  • Direct questions to the silent participant. Ask questions related to the silent participant's areas of expertise and interest.
  • Ask the silent participant to react to someone else's statement.
  • Ask everyone to take turns to make a 1-minute presentation.
  • Reinforce comments from the taciturn participant (without appearing to be patronizing).
  • Before the meeting or during a break, talk to the silent participant. Emphasize the importance of her or his participation and collaboratively work out strategies to increasing the level of participation.
  • Before the meeting or during a break, assign the role of identifying and drawing out the reluctant participant to a one or two team members.
  • Call on the silent participant by name. Frequently use the name of this participant.