Some group members may act in ways that disrupt group effectiveness. This is where the facilitator role comes into play. The main aim is to foster communication among the group and to model effective interaction that members can emulate. Facilitators also provide an example of how to share in the group. It takes skill and practice to do this when a member is misusing the group.

The Community Toolbox identifies a number of ways that a peer support network member’s behaviour may disrupt-use the network. These include:

  • When a member is often late to meetings
  • When a member talks too much, monopolizing the discussion
  • When a member rejects every suggestion that others make – the “yes, but” phenomenon
  • When a member appears to have problems that are more than the group can handle such as someone who’s had a change in health and should seek medical attention, or someone who may have psychological problems needing professional attention
  • When a member interrupts others or brings up inappropriate or irrelevant subjects
  • When a member’s problem doesn’t match up with what the group is meant to address.
  • When a member uses language that is out dated or offensive or is particularly frustrated and angry about a particular issue.

Some suggested ways to approach the network member:

  • Speak to the individual in private: if you consider that one member’s way of doing things is impacting on the effectiveness of the peer network, it is a good idea to say something early in the piece. Do this in private and suggest ways and possibilities to make positive change
  • Respect the member’s position or dilemma: State that you understand the reason(s) behind the member’s negative behaviour. Use “I” or “we” statements, which show how his behaviour affects you and the group
  • Set limits: Gently but firmly correct the behaviour. Explain your reasons; letting the member know why you need to change the situation will make him more likely to cooperate. It may be helpful to refer to the group rules (See Quick Guide: How rules can help your peer network).
  • Suggest an alternative: Explain what you’d like to see the member do instead of the negative behaviour
  • Get the member’s agreement on the alternative: Make sure the member understands what is being asked of him/her and agrees to do it.
  • Give the member the opportunity to be heard: If a member is constantly interrupting, let the member know that they will have an opportunity to be heard and refer to the agreed meeting rules. Make sure you then return to the member later in the discussion and honour your agreement.

Useful resources and links:

The Community Toolbox has great resources on its website:

Co-authored by WA’s Individualised Services


The information on this page is also available as a downloadable Quick Guide, by clicking below. There are PDF and word versions.