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Tips on How to Deal with a Skeptic in the Workshop

Welcome to your workshop, everything is set up, and all parties who should be there are present. This seems to be a perfect scenario to start, but what happens when someone is just not in harmony with the flow of the workshop?

Spotting the Skeptic

This person is the “skeptic”, and it is important to note that they are not skeptical about the outcome, but much more so about the process. These people are usually irritated, distracted and will not stop talking, or interrupting at critical times during the workshop. They ask too many questions that are not related to the topic, and deviate from the purpose of the workshop.

Problem 1: Asks too many questions

Questions are always good and welcome when they are conducive towards the goal of the workshop. Keep in mind that every workshop is time-sensitive as well as task-sensitive for the best results. So, someone anchoring down with too many questions on direction and method is hindering the process – and not believing in it, thus we have our skeptic.

Solution

Ask them why they are asking these questions – usually if someone has to explain why they start seeing for themselves that they are not aiding the positive outcome of the workshop- and it is usually a specific issue that is not relevant to the team or the workshop currently in place. It is important to remind all of your participants what the goals, requirements, and previous knowledge should be assumed when walking into the workshop.

Problem 2: Skeptical about the process… 

Why are we doing this? Why do I have to change my mindframe? Why do we not look at certain factors? Why are we only looking at a small part, not the big picture? – Do these questions feel familiar to you? Well, then you have got yourself someone who does not believe or understand the process of a workshop. What is the solution? Let us give you a tip!

Solution

If you are dealing with people who do not understand the value of a workshop or have never participated in one, then it helps to prepare them before the workshop or at the very beginning. Mention these are the tools that companies like Facebook, Google etc. use to create strong ideas, use examples to show the true benefit of this work.

If you are dealing with someone who does not see the value of the setting, then reassurance is key  – people do not want to participate as much in a workshop if they believe their ideas will not be heard or utilized in the end – make it clear what information is relevant to this setting and keep everyone on track. 

Problem 3: Irritated or distracted

Irritated?

More often than not the cause of irritation is misinterpretation, or lack of knowledge on the subject – these are both really easy to combat but are advised to be done in private – pull your skeptic aside during a break and ask them what could be the issue. Remember a workshop is about communication. 

Distracted?

Eliminate all elements of distraction before the workshop. What are the essential elements in most workshops? Key people, a pen, and paper… and of course, post-its. The rest is just a distraction. Make sure to establish these ground rules at the very beginning of a workshop and try your best to accommodate extenuating circumstances.

Problem 4: Won´t stop talking

Some of us are more vocal than others, and that is okay…for a while, but when someone has commandeered the workshop with their own perspective something has to be done. You might not usually think of an inquirer as a skeptic, but they are. 

Solution

In order to get the talking type skeptic to validate their input by writing it down. Be aware that these individuals have a need to be heard, and need acknowledgement in any format – thus showing them physical signs of listening the individual will then feel heard and their desire to keep talking will slow down.

If you liked this piece and find it relevant to activities and experiences you’ve had in the past, then take a look at the different types of workshops and when each of them should be used.

Laura Brazay

Laura Brazay

Digital branding specialist with experience in social media strategy, and a background in Business Administration, who sees life in the full spectrum of colours. I spend my free time taking long walks exploring the city with my pup.

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