Crucial Skills®

A Blog by Crucial Learning

Trainer Insights

How do I handle participants who are quiet or who don't participate?

Justin Hale

David Nelson is a VitalSmarts Master Trainer.


Q How do I handle participants who are quiet or who don’t participate?


Healthy class participation can be a function of the students, the facilitator, or sometimes both! Since we can’t control the students (no matter how badly we’d love to), the solution starts with you.

Examine Your Motives
Making sure our motives are “right” is one of the first things we should do when dealing with a quiet class. Ask yourself:

  1. What is your desired outcome for the participants in the class?
  2. Do you want the class to participate for your own self-aggrandizement, to keep the class interesting, or because you believe it enhances learning?
  3. Do you want them to think you’re a great facilitator, tell others about the course, or simply enjoy their class experience?

Examine Your Methods
Here are a couple of specific mechanics you can use to invite healthier participation:

  • Point & assign: Point to a quieter table/group before asking the question, “I’d like to ask this table what they think about . . .”
  • Break it into small parts: If the class doesn’t seem to talk a lot as a large group, ask them to discuss the answer in their table group or with a neighbor. Often, if they are a quiet class, they are more likely to participate one-on-one rather than in a large group.
  • Work the crowd: Establishing a better relationship with participants during breaks and during group work can drastically change participation. Improving your individual relationship with class members can collective increase safety and change their perspective of you.

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