When running a retreat, whether it is your first or your twentieth – eventually you’re going to run into a problematic person that you’re going to have to deal with. And knowing ahead of time how you’re going to deal with them is going to make your life a lot easier in the moment.
Look, people are coming on your retreat because they need help, and when you put people into an environment that encourages transformation, you’ve got to expect that all kinds of stuff is going to come up – even in the nicest people.
As retreat leaders, I feel that our number one job is to NOT take our retreat participants personally no matter what they do or say. Their process is about them, not about us and the more emotionally neutral and non-judgmental we can be – the better things will be for everyone.
When you get upset with your participants and judge them (even if that judgment is in your head) that energy will still be felt by your participants no matter what you say. It’s critical to stay detached and understand everyone is entitled to their process.
Their process is not a person affront to you or your abilities. However, if you get upset with them, then you’re standing in a place of ego and that’s the worst position for you to be in.
Once someone feels like you are judging them, they’ll go on the defensive and it will be much harder to resolve the situation. If you’re neutral and open, you’ll have a better chance of them listening to you and sharing what is going on for them.
After all, no one wants to share their feelings with a person who we know is sitting in judgment of us!
We’re all human – and we all push each other’s buttons often unknowingly.
That’s why being a retreat leader is the best personal growth opportunity – because without a doubt there will be at least ONE person on your trip that will rub you the wrong way!
And this is the perfect chance to ask yourself: “Why is this person bringing up these feelings inside of me?” rather than saying: “Why is this person being such a pain in the ass?”
It’s easy to blame what’s happening on your retreat on the troublemaker in the group – but a truly stellar facilitator will always take the time to ask themselves how they can improve their ability to manage the group energy better.
So then what do you do if you have a problematic participant? Well, the best approach is to speak to that person privately.
Never call them out in front of everyone, or embarrass them.
That might sound obvious, but when someone is acting out it can throw you off-guard in the moment and you might act defensively without thinking. That’s why it’s so important to have this conversation together so you get clear on what you would do way ahead of time.
Here are my four tips for keeping your communication squeaky clean:
Always take the approach of being curious rather than accusatory.
Set boundaries from love and respect rather than from fear.
Keep in mind that communication trumps confrontation.
Remember that compassion in action is always more effective than empathy.
Please let me know how you handle these difficult situations below – we can all learn from each other in our desire to become the best retreat leaders we can be. 🙂
Dr Sheri Rosenthal is known as one of the most sought after retreat strategists for coaches, speakers, and authors — and is the owner of Journeys of the Spirit Travel®, a boutique agency specializing in the planning and management of group travel.
Through her Wanderlust Entrepreneur Community and her signature course, The Retreat Blueprint Program, she has taught thousands of facilitators how to design exceptional retreats that allow them stand out in their niche. She loves helping clients plan, fill, and profit from transformational retreats that change lives in a huge way while adding serious income to their bottom line!