Leading Discussions: Handling Personality Types

Groups are made up of a variety of people with a variety of personalities which play out in a variety of ways as we seek to facilitate healthy discussions. If we are to use discussion groups as both an education tool and to provide theological reflection as we looked at in part one of this series, then we must learn to navigate these people. Let’s look at the personalities that we will encounter and how we can best help them participate in the discussion.

The Talker

You will have a love/hate relationship with this student. You will love the fact that he is quick to answer questions and he participates. You will hate the fact that she typically wants to speak first, dominates the conversation, and doesn’t seem to notice that she is hindering others’ opportunity to participate. Learning to help her participate well is key. Here are some ideas for how to manage talkers:

The Quiet Kid

These students are much quieter than the other youth and usually more shy. They are often introverts and internal processors. Although they do not say as much, they are often thinking a great deal about what is being said. They need time to process before speaking. Some ways that you can help quiet kids participate are:

The Wiggler

They fidget. They wiggle. They have trouble focusing. In the process, they distract you and everyone else. He may have attention deficit disorder. Your goal is to engage him in the discussion and by doing so allow others to engage as well.

The Derailer

He does not want to talk about the topic. She not only wants to distract, she wants to take the conversation in a different direction. He asks the question that does not seem to have anything to do with the lesson. Here are some ways to engage these youth and stay on topic:

The Know it All

She probably grew up in church. He may attend a private Christian school. She gives off an air of having already learned everything you have to offer. These youth can be the most difficult, because they don’t engage because they feel they already know the answers.

The Challenger

This student challenges every point you make or anyone else tries to make. Challenging can be helpful when it pushes the group to examine its answers, but challengers can also threaten others’ willingness to share.

Have I left out any major personality types that impact your discussion groups regularly? Comment below!

In our final part to this series Leading Discussions, we will explore how to ask good questions.


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