Techniques for Dealing with Different Personalities

When consulting with individuals, it is inevitable that different personalities will be encountered. Some people will be easier to work with than others, however, a consultant may benefit from tips and strategies for dealing with more challenging situations.

Hidden Agenda

When a participant continuously uses a workshop or meeting to discuss their personal agendas, acknowledge, record their comments on chart paper/meeting notes/etc. and refer to the provided agenda and goals.

Broken Record

This person brings up a personal topic over and over. Often it is an unsolvable problem or a problem which cannot be dealt with by the people in the room. Acknowledge the comment, record on chart paper/meeting notes/etc. If it is brought up again ask if there is something to add to the notes, then return the discussion.

Hostility or Personal Attack

Establishing ground rules for participants at the beginning of a training or meeting is a way of being proactive with this type of participant. It will likely be helpful to have the group agree to rules about personal comments or personal attacks vs. difference of opinion. If somebody begins to be hostile to any participant (including you), refer to the ground rules.

Know-It-All or Dominator

This person may continuously share their knowledge, experiences, etc. and deter/prevent others from being able to share. Acknowledge their expertise. Thank them for their input and tell group you would like to hear comments from other participants. Chart their input or write their name on a chart for people to contact later if they choose to do so.


Make eye contact with the individual. Ask them to assist with something. Divide your group into smaller groups. If appropriate, talk to the person at break or lunch.

Yes, But Person

Acknowledge the concern/s. Refer the question back to the group for comments. Chart the concerns. Indicate you need to continue with the agenda.

Side Conversations

When participants continuously have side conversations which disrupt the meeting: pause and indicate the conversations are distracting to you and/or other participants. Ask if they would like to make a comment to the group. It will also be helpful to agree to ground rules regarding side conversations prior to the meeting and enforce them.