Commitment to standing for certain contents, knowledge, and values concerning the group of learnersDesigning Educational ProgrammesIs comfortable with the contents, knowledge, and values of the program being challenged by a group of learnersTransferring knowledge or values related to the activity to the learners

Challenge me!

Challenging ideas and processes in training can be an added value if we can recognize it!


Generally speaking, people like to surround themselves with individuals or groups that have similar views and opinions. Life is easier if we don’t need to debate every point or decision that is required in our lives. This may be fine for certain aspects of life, but when it comes to leading an effective management team, this will usually result in a broader organization that has no soul.

The training course could be the same: when the process is smooth and easy, we appreciate it, but when there is dissension how we can handle it? It is an added value or not for the training and its development?


Differing perspectives are critical to get to the best answer possible when solving difficult problems that every company faces. No one knows everything, whether they think they do or not. From personal experience, critical decisions affecting a company’s success or failure requires thoughtful, meaningful and open discussions, with varying perspectives, to land on the most appropriate course of action.

An environment that fosters a culture of open and honest communication, as is being discussed, is also critical in the development of those around us (those that we are leading). Allowing others to express their opinion in a setting that is respectful and appreciative of dissenting views helps to build the next great leaders in our organizations – it builds critical thinking, collaboration, engagement and confidence, to name just a few.

Participants in a training course challenge trainers in his/her competencies, perspectives on a due idea or project or even on a value.

When dealing with disruptive behavior or a tough and challenging situation with participants while you are delivering, always remember the following three key principles that should be your goals to handle the situation professionally.

1- The first and most important goal is to respect the person and avoid embarrassing or belittling him or her in any way. In the principle of non-formal learning, participants are always at the center of the training and trainers should focus on participants’ needs.

2- Stop the dysfunctional behavior as soon as you can

3- Keep the person engaged and involved in your session and prevent him or other participants from “shutting down” and keep in mind that the way you handle the disruptive person/situation will be judged by the whole group.

Sometimes, participants need to challenge trainers’ and verify the borders that they can push and the position of the trainer toward certain topics.

Being challenged by participants is not easy and could imply more energy to focus on the training aims and not being distracted by side inputs. But being challenged could also be a very good opportunity to raise topics, needs or representations that were not explicit in the group and that would need accurate work for becoming part of the working framework.

Participants who challenge trainers normally are bringing up elements that are present in the group dynamic in a “hidden way”, but that need to be spoken up, to be unveiled in order to become part of the training as such. Sometimes elements of challenges are linked to the powerful role of trainer, to his/her position in the team or specific aptitude. Nothing comes only from one side, but if these situations happen we should consider as a sign of important group dynamics.

In annex, you can find an interesting link with strategies to apply to stereotyped challenging participants, but in any case before acting or reacting we would need to identify the reason for such behavior.


How to apply it in everyday work]

Write one of the worst situations that you had with a challenging participant and answer to the following questions:

  1. Profile of participants: gender, age, nationality, etc
  2. The topic of the challenge: what was the issue that provoked the first discussion?
  3. Do you think that that topic/situation was the real reason for the confrontation or can you recall something before?
  4. How did you feel in that situation?
  5. Did one of your colleagues help/support you during or after the episode?
  6. How did you react/process the event?
  7. Did you have a similar situation during your career?
  8. Can you recall a kind of stereotyping situation in which you fell?

It’s interesting analyzing what kind of impact we as trainers we create around us and if these challenges are connected to a kind of our influence on the training environment and which kind of answers we can use effectively.

Reflection Questions:

  • How do you feel when somebody disagrees or challenges you?
  • Which kind of strategies are you using in your daily life to manage disagreements?
  • How you practice in your life flexibility?

Federica Demicheli

A training focusing on participation as methodology (not only as topic) is based on a certain value premise that believes in the empowerment of all the learners and supporting the equal participation of the ones with fewer opportunities or in situations of disatatage (temporary or long term). The focus of participatory training is not just about ‘knowing more’ but about…

Click here to read more about Federica Demicheli

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