I am a member of many Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) Facebook groups meant for Dungeon Masters (DMs) to connect with other DMs on issues they may be having for their game. Groups like these are fantastic as a resource for creativity, inspiration, and social troubleshooting.
At least once a day, I there are posts some times along the way of “One of my players is doing X (where X represents a behaviour), and it is bothering me/the players/the whole group. What do I do?” The responses usually fall under three categories:
- Find a way in the game to correct the behaviour
- Kick the player out of the group
- Talk to the player.
In my years of experience as a gamer playing card games, board games, Magic the Gathering, and RPGs, the best of all of these is talking about the behaviour with the person in private. Talking is the best option 90% of the time because it keeps your group together, you have the high ground on trying to keep everyone playing, and it involves less hurt feelings.
Without further ado, please see my steps to approaching difficult situations in and out of the gaming table.
Step 1: Find a time that’s convenient for you two to talk
In private, find a time that you two can talk. What I find works best is to phrase it like this: “Hey, Player! Do you have 5 minutes to talk about X and how it affects me/the group?” If they say, no, then you can follow up and ask when would work best. If they say yes, then you can begin your conversation and into step 2!
If the individual just never has time to talk about it, it’s possible that they are avoiding the issue and you need to escalate the concern. What’s important here is that you’re attempting to make contact and keep things non-threatening so that they’re more likely to listen.
Step 2: Describe the issue using I-statements
“Sure, Friend-o. What’s going on,” they ask.
Great! You have the invitation to take the next step. Describe the issue in detail and how it appears from your perspective and how it makes you feel. This is an important step because it makes it feel less like blaming, and more about resolving an issue in how it’s making you feel.
This is trickier than it sounds. For example, if it is a particular behaviour that is causing an issue you may say something along the lines of “I’ve noticed that when you do X, it causes Y which makes me feel Z.”
Step 3: Actively listen to questions and feedback
Once you say that, they may have clarification that is needed, want to interject, or explain something. This is your cue to listen to that feedback actively.
What is active listening? The easiest way to describe it is to fully listen to what’s being said without a thought on how you’re going to reply. You just let their words sink in and then once they’re done provide a response. This is important since it is much harder to listen and gain perspective if you’re busy formulating a response. It also increases the chances of you interjecting them which can cause frustration and stop people from actually listening to you!
Step 4: Repeat 2 and 3 until a resolution is made
Going back and forth, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open until you can think of a resolution. A resolution may take multiple forms. It could that they didn’t know that X bothered you or they didn’t notice what arose from X. If that’s the case, maybe they’ll try to avoid doing X. It may not be an overnight change, but it’s something that you both can work on.
A resolution may mean that they’re not willing to change at this time and they won’t want to play any further. While this can be disheartening, especially if you’ve built up a friendship over the time you’ve been gaming together, some times this can be for the better. People game for different reasons and not all games can provide benefits for everyone involved.For example, if you have someone who gloats when they win to the point of making someone feel inadequate or bullied, they may not be a fit in a group that values cooperation or is sensitive to that sort of behaviour.
At Where2Game, we focus on bringing positive gaming experiences to those who identify as gamers and non-gamers alike. We hope that the above steps will allow you to constructively defuse tense situations and keep your gaming groups inclusive, happy, and fun!
Have an issue that you need help with? Send us a message! We love hearing from our readers and welcome any feedback.