Facililtation Antipattern: Zealot

Posted by Doc
Feb 09 2009

ZealotMotto: The force of my convictions makes me right!
Belief: If you understand what I’m saying, then you must agree with me. My conviction is my strength.
Behavior: Speaks with passion and fervor, acting in the sincere belief that she is right and that if she pursues the topic long enough, others must see the rightness of her argument and agree with her.
Characteristics: Passionate, articulate, determined, argumentative, zealous


The Zealot (sometimes known as The Missionary) believes strongly, even passionately, in whatever they believe in. No half-measures for them.

They are willing to argue, fight, persuade, convince, and argue some more to win you over to their point of view. This means that they have the tendency to dominate a discussion, in their passion for what they know to be true/right.

This has the effect of taking over a meeting so that it is entirely focused on the Zealot’s issue. Which suits the Zealot just fine, but does not contribute to the group’s overall success.

It is important to realize that the Zealot is thoroughly well-intentioned, believing that they are serving you/the group by convincing anyone and everyone of the rightness of their view. They have nothing but good intentions, in fact. You might find yourself having the opportunity to ask “the question” (see I feel sad) from Crucial Conversations.

Dealing with this requires the strength to choose when to cut off a conversation (The Facilitation Four-Step), offer to either park it or consider it done, and keep the group moving forward. Challenging, but relatively straightforward.  This also requires the support of the other participants, which is usually forthcoming.

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