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Through the Crap!
and reveal assumptions.
for the strong language above, but I felt it appropriate
given the mountains of assumptions I've heard in reaction to
last week's tragic events, and because sometimes we need to
get rude to break ourselves out of our assumption prisons.
That said, I'll do my best to refrain from political
commentary while attempting to bring forward a powerfully
relevant facilitation skill that may relate to these and
other events nonetheless.
We so often communicate with one another on top of layers of
unspoken assumptions and agendas, often without realizing
it. The "not realizing it" piece is the killer. Unconscious
assumptions present huge barriers to clear communication and
understanding. As facilitators, one of the most powerful
things we can do is to act as detectives in search of
assumptions, rout them out, expose them, and reveal them for
what they are. Once those evil little assumption nazis are
discovered and labeled, deeper relationships can be
cultivated based on mutual respect, understanding,
and even love.
But when we react to our own assumptions, we are reacting to
the unreal, and most often, to our own projections of our
worst fears. Carl Rogers, one of the 20th century's leading
pioneers in psychology and human potential worked
extensively with groups of hundreds of people in a room
(warring factions in Brazil and Ireland, for example) with
radically opposing views. He found that if as facilitators,
his staff simply held a compassionate space, only speaking
to make sure everyone and everything is actually heard,
allowing the group to seek its own direction like a living
organism, the wisdom of these groups would eventually rise
to the surface and all members would bond in mutual respect
How do we detect assumptions? David Bohm, quoted by Peter
Senge in the "Fifth Discipline," identifies three
types of incoherence in our thinking that lead to
1) Denial that you are a participant (It's not my fault!...
Look at what they did!)
2) You stop tracking with reality and start running your
program (look for people preaching and stuck on one point of
establish your own standard of reference for fixing
problems, problems this frame contributed to creating in the
first place. (When someone attacks us, we have to attack
goes on to suggest three conditions necessary for
1) All participants must "suspend" their
assumptions, literally to hold them "as if suspended
2) All participants must regard one another as colleagues.
3) There must be a "facilitator" (that's you!) who
"holds the context" of dialogue (i.e. attends to
once sat in a circle of 15 strangers for 8 hours with the
intention of allowing true community to emerge. During this
time, we couldn't help but let go of our pretense...our
playing the nice game...and we got real.
I must say that the path to real wasn't real pretty.
There was yelling, accusations, crying, blaming, fear,
hiding, and general misery. But we stuck to it until we all
reached a point of emptiness, where there just wasn't much
left to be said, and yet there weren't any
"answers" either. At some point, an older lady
shared her pain from deep in her heart, others in the group
gathered around her either physically or emotionally to
comfort her...in that moment we were one--we were a
community. The next day we bounced in and out of this sense
of community but while in it, we created wonderful things
together. There was a feeling that in this state, we could
solve any problem put before us as a wise, interconnected,
During this process, the facilitators didn't say or do much.
But they listened intently to every word spoken, and the
energy of their intention to hang in there and "stand
by our intention" to reach community was
Getting through assumptions can be messy but not nearly as
messy as the fruits of our hatred, distrust, and
interested in hearing your perspectives on this topic and
how this information might help you in your role as a
facilitator in the groups you work with? Please email
me your thoughts, stories, and experiences on this issue.
How are Facilitators Marketing Their Service?
Thank you to everyone
who sent in examples of icebreaker exercises they use to
support groups in warming up and getting to know each other.
This week, we're asking you to send
us ideas and methods that you've found
effective in marketing yourself as a facilitator. We'll make
all of these available to everyone who contributes at least
Please email your responses to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for your help in making the MasterFacilitatorJournal.com
site the best facilitation resource site on the web!
Creating Dialogue With Our Readers
In an effort to stimulate
discussion on facilitation tips, tools, and processes that
are relevant to your interests, we'd like to hear from you.
Please post your answers to the questions at on our
to stimulate discussion on these topics, or simply send me
your feedback and I'll post it here or at the forum. Here is
some recent feedback from one of our readers:
In a recent issue of the Master Facilitator Journal you
asked if we would share stories relative to the topic of
"being the message". I present often on several
topics that are near and dear to my heart, and find the
audiences have a "warm up curve" that we have to
break through to take a module to where it is most
effective. Here is the story of a curve that we took on two
wheels to the delight and benefit of all.
As a presenter in a personality profiling workshop recently,
I, along with the rest of the audience was listening to a
participant relate the challenge of being married to a
particular personality type. At the close of her statements
another participant raised her hand and asked if persons of
that personality had a particularly difficult time
establishing relationships. Since my personality types the
same as the "difficult" one, I took a deep breath
and told the truth - - "No, that personality type
really doesn't have a hard time establishing relationships -
- you can ask any one of my 3 ex-husbands - - it's the
maintenance part that we are slow in mastering." The
audience roared, the momentum soared and the pace of the
workshop picked up because everyone in the room was now
willing to commit themselves to being honest in the
I learned as much (maybe more) than my audience that day,
and I got the best evaluations I have ever received. Thanks
for providing an article that caused me to reflect on that
experience. --Chris Bez.
your questions and input to us. We look forward to hearing