“Oh Sh*t” Moments in Group and What You Can Do

*A group member attacks you personally in front of the entire group

This is definitely awkward, and it can be hurtful. But don’t take it personally. Remember the interpersonal process. They are lashing out for a reason. Acknowledge & validate the emotions behind their words. Don’t try and defend yourself- you don’t have to.  Also remember that not every group member that comes your way will like you. That’s just life!


*The group members aren’t in a talkative mood & they’re just staring at you waiting for you to say something

Sometimes, the group members rely on the facilitator too much. They just want to sit back & relax and let the facilitator do all the talking. But my former co-worker would always say, “You get out what you put in”. So it’s up to the group members to put in effort and talk about the things that bring them to group. One thing you can do if they’re not in a talkative mood is leave group for a few minutes (tell them you forgot something in your office, you have to check on something, etc.). This forces the group members to start a conversation with each other. If you’re in a situation where only one or two group members are talking and they’re waiting for you to respond to them, you can simply stop making eye contact with them. This forces them to look at their group members (who may then feel obligated to engage).


*A group member is pouring their heart out and you just simply don’t know what to say back to them

Don’t panic! If you’re ever in a situation where you’re at a loss for words, you’ve frozen, you’ve gone blank, etc., you can bring another group member into the fold. For example, you can say something like, “John, I notice you’re having a reaction to what Susan is saying”. Or you can just get back to the basics and focus on the emotions they’re expressing. You don’t necessarily have to say something super wise- sometimes, just showing that you’re listening & hearing them is enough.


*The group members complete an activity, an exercise, etc…. and say it did not help them at all

Yes, this can sting, especially when you put a lot of effort into preparing for a group or you just felt excited and optimistic about it. But it’s not necessarily your “fault” that group members are not satisfied at the end of a group. Maybe they didn’t put in enough effort. Group isn’t supposed to just “cure” them- they have to keep an open-mind and commit to working on themselves. Maybe they just need to keep practicing whatever they learned (change takes time!) But you don’t have to defend your activity, exercise, etc. or talk about how studies show how blah blah blah works. And sometimes we just have to accept the fact that a group didn’t go as planned- it’s a learning experience.


*Group members start a verbal catfight, and it’s starting to escalate

Drama, drama, drama. It’s okay if there is conflict. Conflict can actually be a good thing in group. But you don’t want verbal fights to escalate into something physical. I once facilitated a group in which a verbal fight was starting to get out of hand. The two women involved ignored everything I said. So I simply got up, walked out of group, and asked the rest of the group to follow me (“It looks like we can’t hold group here right now. Let’s move somewhere else”). This tactic stopped the fighting… the two women became mad at me for leaving, but that’s okay! But on a serious note, if you think a fight is about to get physical or you feel threatened in any way, call for help!


*The group monopolizer keeps going and going and going…

You gotta break in eventually, especially since the other group members are often afraid to. One thing you can do is try to get reactions from the other group members. You can interrupt and say something like, “Jill, you look like you have something to say” or “Jane, you’ve talked about something like this before, so I know you can relate”. That way you’re not really changing the topic, you’re just getting other voices in.


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