How to deal with disruptive people during meetings

It can be extremely annoying and frustrating if people are chatting during a business meeting or, worse still, constantly interrupting you. But how do you deal with disruptive people without losing your cool? Here are some ideas on how to keep control.

Set ground rules
Ahead of the meeting negotiate some ground rules that everyone is happy with, such as starting on time even if somebody is missing, only allowing one person to speak at a time and not straying off topic. Having a solid structure will help to curb some of the most common types of disruptive behaviour, such as constant interruptions, people talking over each other or colleagues chatting amongst themselves. Circulating an agenda beforehand can also help attendees to think about their comments and questions more carefully.

Two Sides of a Table Arguing While a Businessman on the end Rolls his Eyes

Stay calm
Sometimes you might feel as though a particular person has been put on the planet to deliberately wind you up, and you really want to give them a piece of your mind. However, it’s important not to lose your temper or act in an aggressive manner. Instead, try to get to the bottom of why they are being disruptive or difficult. If they want to be more involved you could ask them to take notes or act as timekeeper. Or, if they’re constantly opposing you, ask the other attendees to comment on the issues they’ve raised to get a balanced view.

Don’t get into a heated argument
Having a blazing row with an individual in front of others is likely to make the rest of the group feel very uncomfortable and, what’s more, you run the risk of losing all credibility. Try to remain upbeat and don’t get dragged down by any negative behaviour. You’ll always get some cynics in meetings – you just have to communicate as effectively as you can to try to win them round.

Always treat participants with respect
Every participant deserves to be treated with respect, no matter how difficult they are. They may not even realise they’re being disruptive – it’s just their personality – so embrace the fact that everyone is different. Others in the meeting may side with them, so never try to belittle them or laugh at their ideas.


Everyone in the Meeting Looking at on Businessman Slouched on the Table

Create the right environment
The temperature and dynamics of the meeting room can both play a part in how smoothly the meeting runs. A room that is too hot may cause tempers to boil over. Either that, or everyone will just nod off. The ideal temperature is slightly on the cool side so people will stay alert. Try not to sit domineering personalities next to each other as they could commandeer the meeting or start an argument between themselves.

Maintain order throughout
A strong meeting leader should be able to stick to the agenda without it veering too far off course. But if you do find that someone is so disruptive that they’re severely affecting the flow of the meeting and hampering other people’s contributions, you can always ask them to leave. However, this should only be done as a last resort.


Posted by Ashleigh Sharp

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