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How to deal with disruptive trainees

16 March 2019

It can be very frustrating when you’re a trainer having to deal with disruptive trainees.

They might be chatting while you’re delivering, fiddling with their phone or continually interjecting and trying to throw you off course.

Whatever they’re doing, it’s important to gain control, maintain the higher ground and ensure that person doesn’t disrupt the session for everyone else.

Here’s some brilliant tips for doing just that.

Set the rules

This isn’t about getting all draconian with your trainees. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Before you start each session begin with some ‘housekeeping’. Agree with everyone that people will be allowed to speak one at a time and that you’ll always start on time - even if someone’s missing.

These ground rules should help most people keep on track and curb most disruptive behaviour.

Don’t get angry

We get it - you’ve had a long week, didn’t sleep much last night and have a tonne of important work to get on with after the training session. It can therefore be rather too tempting to fly off the handle if you’re continually put off course by a disruptive trainee.

Try not to. By getting angry, you’ll only exacerbate the situation and probably make everything a whole lot worse.

Instead, deal with the difficult trainee calmly, and remain the bigger person. Even if they try arguing with you, avoid getting into a blazing row. Stay calm.

Treat everyone with respect

Everyone in your training session deserves respect - even those who seem intent on bringing the house down with their disruptive behaviour.

The more you keep this in mind, the more you’ll be able to bring the difficult people on side.

It’s important to remember that we’re all human, and some disruptive trainees may not even be aware that their behaviour is problematic.

Embrace the fact we’re all different, and avoid belittling their ideas or interjections. Smile at them, empathise and be open with your body language; the more you demonstrate that you respect everyone in the room, the more the tricky people will start to warm to you.

Have a chat with them during the break

Few people are disruptive for the sake of it; there’s nearly always a reason behind such behaviour.

When you reach a break, grab the opportunity to speak to the disruptive trainee. Ask them if there’s anything on their mind, or if they’re concerned about something. You can also ask if you’re doing something wrong, because you never know - you might inadvertently be alienating them.

For many disruptive trainees, the mere fact you’ve taken the time to speak to them might be enough to bring that person on side. For others, you may discover that there’s something deeper at play, and while you can’t pry into personal matters, just a hand on their shoulder might do the trick.

Final thought

Disruptive trainees might appear to be in control, but chances are, most of the people in the room will feel the same about them as you do.

So, you’ve got the rest of the trainees on your side, and with our tips above, you’ll regain control in no time. And, who knows, you might even turn that disruptive attendee into a shining star!

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