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Disagreeing with Participants

Disagreement is a valuable part of education. Questioning theories and using the scientific method to prove or disprove a hypothesis moves us forward as a society. When we are in training, arguments can stimulate great conversation. Time permitting, you can use the boomerang method to get the entire class to express opinions when a participant disagrees with something you have presented. This can be an exciting way to learn from colleges who may have more experience than you with the subject at hand.

That said, what happens when a participant presents an argument that is flat-out incorrect? For example; one participant insists that up is down and one of your basic objectives is to talk about the fundamentals of the direction up.

The high road is not the easy one to take in this situation because the obvious answer is to point up and say “Look, there it is!”. However, sometimes education is as much about listening as it is about everything else that we do. Let’s look at a few things we can do when we encounter this situation.

Say “Tell me more about that”

Time permitting, give contrarians the soapbox they need to be heard, that may be all they need. You can open it up for class discussion or move on to the ideas below.

Yes, and…

In an earlier blog post, Brian discusses the value of the improv method of “yes, and”, where actors are told to always answer with yes, and. It is way harder than it looks, especially when you don’t agree. However, flipping the narrative with a simple “yes, and”, instead of our common go to words like “but, except, what about, etc…” can make a big difference in this situation.

Do not, under any circumstance, insult them.

In their own head, everyone is the protagonist of their story. The moment you insult them or tell them they are wrong, you are the villain in their story. Once you are a villain, you have lost them and the education is likely over.

Parking lot

Time tends to be an issue during classroom training. A flip-chart with a parking lot for questions or conversations that can take place later is a good idea for any training. In this situation, it is invaluable. After making sure you have clarified what they have said, suggesting taking this conversation off-line and maybe pulling in a few subject matter experts who can help answer questions.

How do you handle difficult arguments during training? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.

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