Challenges - Behavior in Groups
One of the challenges of being a Girl Scout Leader is working with adults.
You interact with parents and guardians of the girls in your troop, co-leaders, assistant
leaders, other troop leaders, service team members, council members, etc. You are faced
with a wide range of personality types.
Behaviors/Techniques for Coping
Approaches to Dealing with Difficult Behavior
The following are a few self-centered and disruptive behaviors that can happen in a
group along with a few ideas of "what to do about it". These may help you to be prepared
when meetings begin to get off track.
Self Centered Roles and Behavior
Some Ideas for Coping
The Blocker -- Goes off on tangents, consistently argues on points
the group has resolved, and rejects ideas without consideration
- Try to focus away from the person exhibiting the behavior.
- Politely point out that the person has strayed away from the topic and refocus
on the task you are doing.
- Summarize conclusions to conflicts to avoid argument on the same topic.
The Fighter -- Attacks the motives of others, shows hostility
toward the group or some individual without relation to the group’s task, and criticizes
and blames others.
- Put a stop to it as gently as possible by getting the person to direct
anger toward a topic, rather than a person.
- Point out where the person has been critical and why the criticism is unwarranted.
- Point out that you all share ideas as you work and everyone should be recognized for what they have contributed.
The Pleader -- Proposes own pet concerns beyond reason; attempts
to speak for ‘the girl,’ ‘the leader,’ etc.
- Give the person some attention, then focus on the priorities of the group.
- Ask the person gently to speak only for her self or him self.
The Dominator -- Interrupts the contributions of others; uses
authority in manipulating the group or certain members by pulling rank.
- Give the person a special project.
- Send the person on an errand.
- Add a strong person to the group and encourage more group participation.
The Withdrawer -- Acts passive or indifferent, doodles, whispers
to others, and passes notes.
- Direct questions to the person that you know can be answered.
- Ask the person to lead a discussion.
- Find ways to get the person actively involved with others in the group.
The Talker -- Seeks recognition by extreme ideas and boisterous boasts.
- Use tact to interrupt the flow of talking. Ask specifically for others
- Indicate that you are happy that the person has so much to share and could others
have a chance to contribute.
- Have a private conversation with the person.
The Nit Picker -- Criticizes, finds fault with everything—the
room set-up, the typing, and the materials, under the guise of helping.
- Try to get the person to see that these things do not affect the group
- Ask the person to help with the next session with assurances that you will discuss
The Dependent One -- Overeager to please the leader by doing
whatever is expected or desire, waits to be directed, demonstrates little initiative.
- Ask the person to initiate ideas and give reactions.
- Watch for changes to praise for initiative.
Approaches to Dealing with Difficult Behavior
There are two general approaches to dealing with difficult behavior:
working to "cure" the behavior or devising a strategy for coping with
the behavior. The goal of the two approaches is the same, to minimize
the problem and maximize the use of human resources. Both approaches
include the same four steps:
Step One: IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM
Begin by trying to understand the nature of the problem. This means
identifying the specific behavior that is unacceptable, determining with
whom the behavior surfaces, and how frequently it occurs. Negative behavior
that occurs with only one person is probably evidence of a personality
conflict, rather than "difficult behavior," and needs to be worked out
between the two parties involved.
Step Two: EXAMINE THE RELATIONSHIPS
Examining how the difficult person interacts with others gives clues
to the possible causes of the behavior. Determining why the behavior occurs
and why it is annoying helps point toward possible solutions.
Step Three: DETERMINE THE COSTS
Difficult behavior always carries a cost whether it be in terms of lost
productivity, lower morale, or general discomfort. If there is no identifiable
cost to you, the person involved, or to others, the behavior should be ignored.
Step Four: SEEK A SOLUTION AND GET AN AGREEMENT WITH AND COMMITMENT
TO THAT SOLUTION
Once you have determined that the costs of ignoring the behavior are
too high, the issue must be discussed with the offender. Plan out an approach
that best fits the nature and gravity of the problem, the personality of the
person involved, and your relationship with that person.
- Set up a meeting. Arrange for privacy and sufficient time to address
the issue. Select a time when you are calm and have adequately prepared for
- Describe the difficult behavior in a non-accusatory manner and
explain why it concerns you. Focus on a description of specific facts.
Avoid offering your opinion as to why the problem exists and stick with a
discussion of the problem behavior, rather than the individual’s personality.
Finally, select only one or two negative behaviors to work on, to avoid
overwhelming the person. These should be behaviors the person can do something
- Use active listening skills to check your understanding of the problem
and its causes. Active listening includes showing empathy ("I can see you
are surprised and upset about what I have told you."), asking questions to check
your understanding, and restating major ideas ("So we’re being criticized because
you want to help us do our jobs better, not because our work is no good?").
Passive people need a lot of encouragement to start talking. Wait patiently for
them to respond to questions, and hear them out once they have started talking.
- State the change in behavior you are seeking. Be clear about what
you want, but be open to changing your goal or solution, if that becomes appropriate.
- Solicit ideas for change and how to accomplish it from the difficult
person. He or she will often come up with the best solutions, and will be
more agreeable to implementing these solutions than the ones offered by someone
else. Express confidence in the person’s ability to change. Offer your own
solutions if none suggested by the other person are acceptable to you.
- Agree on an action plan. Work towards a solution acceptable to both
parties. Get agreement on specific actions you or the other person will take,
and set a timetable for these actions. Start with short term, easily attainable
- Set a follow-up date and time. This reminds both parties to
review progress on implementing the plan.
- Follow up. Recognize any progress that has been made. If these has
been no change in the difficult behavior, reevaluate the action plan and revise
it, if necessary.
What is a problem?
Usually, a problem is the difference between what is happening right now and what a person would like to have happen.
Most problems can be worked out if people are willing to follow a few problem-solving steps. The most important word here is willing. If you think there is a problem, do not wait while you get angry at what is happening. Anger does not solve anything. Positive action will.
- State the Problem – You need to know what the problem really is.
- Explore and understand the problem – What is going on when this problem takes place?
- Decide what you would like to have happen instead of what is happening now.
- What can you do about it?
- Talk about the consequences of each solution. What will happen if you decide to do a certain thing?
- Make a choice – What solution are you going to try first?
- Take action on your choice. Make your choice and do it.
- Evaluate – How did it go? Was the choice you made a good one? Do you need to make another choice?