Facilitating Other People's Conversations

Ongoing challenges for every facilitator include:
  1. Choosing how much of themself they 'insert' into the discussion that they are facilitating; and 
  2. Being sufficiently self-aware to see when and how they are 'inserting' themself into the conversation. 
 Yes, these are related challenges, as you cannot do the first without having the second.

Some Insights

Most facilitation can benefit from me being nearly invisible. The key to this is asking questions. Good-old-open-questions. And not just any open questions, but questions that encourage people to examine what they think and why. And if there people are listening as well as sharing their own perspective, there is also the potential for them to see points of agreement, and points of disagreement, and points of ignorance.

When I start a session, I do not ask 'Why are you here?' because I want to hear one cohesive answer around the room; I often ask because I suspect people have different reasons for being here, and I want them to have an opportunity to tell me and the other people in the room what they want out of this.

Also, I can always put more of me into the next part of the discussion, but I can never take out what I have already put in. So I often tell myself, 'Hold back; hold back and see where the discussion is going.' And when I do, thinks almost invariable work out better than they would have with my opinion or intervention.

I have recently visited a number of small not-for-profit organisations working for a better life for people in their communities. I think that small not-for-profit community organisations are the backbone of our social contract on a local level. I sometimes tell people working in these organisations that this is what I think. When I tell them what I think, I am inserting myself into the conversation. I am sharing an opinion. This opinion is not necessarily relevant or helpful.

I think I do it to be encouraging - to let them know that people believe in them; that I believe in them. Could this be unhelpful? Yes it could. It could be unhelpful because when I judge them in this way, I am suggesting that my judgement is valid. I am inserting myself. Maybe I could substitute a question, like, 'What are you doing that is making a difference in this community?' or, more simply 'What is valuable about this work?' -- For a little less of me; and a bit more of them.

The title of this post is very intentional. Actually, it is where this post started. If I can have the humility to believe that this is 'the participants' conversation' (and not mine), there is a good chance they will achieve  what they came to achieve, and maybe a bit more.