Ive trained many facilitators and notice a feeling that appears
in the apprentices, somewhere near the end of their formal training. Almost
all of them want to watch experienced facilitators work before they go
off on their own. This in itself is not a bad idea, but then they want
to watch more, and watch some more, and keep watching. At first, I didnt
understand this hesitancy, then one day I had the aha. I call
it: Facilitateaphobia the fear of being the facilitator.
Strange as it sounds, facilitaeaphobia is a condition that occurs when
the facilitator begins to think about what it is they're doing while theyre
doing it. Its marked by that little voice in your head asking questions
or sometimes raising self-doubt; things like, What if they dont
like me? or, What if I miss something? It also shows
itself in random unrelated thoughts such as, Its getting close
to lunch or I really like that outfit that Peggy is wearing.
What triggers facilitaeaphobia?
Facilitateaphobia grows out of not being present to the group (see past
Presence is Your Present to Your Group) and is aggravated by
being unsure of yourself as facilitator.
If youre not sure of yourself, you allow facilitaeaphobia to take
hold. If youre not present to the group you will begin to think
about other things. This Thinker (that little voice you hear
in your head when you use all your filters and relate things to past experience,
future possibilities or just random ideas) is not the facilitators
friend. It takes away your presence to the group. When you are present,
I say the Watcher is at work, you're there and because of
your training and experience, you know what to do without debating
it in your head. When suffering facilitateophobia, you no longer experience
the here and now of the group, but instead you experience what you think
happened the magic of facilitation is gone.
The "Thinker" vs. the "Watcher"
Here's a little background on the "Thinker and the "Watcher."
When you know something and are comfortable with your proficiency you
are the "Watcher." Take driving a car for example; it is a very
present focused activity. When you take a trip, first you plan it. You
plan where you are going. You may use a map, a GPS or it may be a familiar
destination. Once planned, you get in the car, put the key in the ignition,
start the car, check for traffic, put it in gear and off you go. During
the trip you speed up, slow down, check your interval, switch lanes and
turn signals off and on, always assessing the situation.
Yet, very rarely do you hear the "Thinker in your head. If
you do, its usually a reminder about maybe a confusing turn. You
acknowledge that thought then move on; this is the "Watcher
in operation. On the other hand, if you drive using the "Thinker
you separate yourself from the act of driving and the "Thinker
starts to put time and attention between you and the act of driving. Soon
while youre thinking about your destination or the conversation
on the cell phone you dont notice that the car in front of you is
stopped. If youre lucky, you only have a close call, but if are
still being the "Thinker then you may fear that all cars will
stop in front of you. Your proficiency as a driver is diminished. If you
dont drive, you can adapt this illustration to almost anything you
By now youve probably said to yourself, OK Fred this driving lesson
is all well and good, but, what does it have to do with Facilitateaphobia?
Great question Grasshopper (a little U.S. TV trivia!). Read on to find
How do you avoid Facilitaeaphobia?
- Be competent in the art of facilitation. Become a student of
the facilitators craft. Work on your skillset so that you dont
need to be the Thinker talking to yourself in your head, telling yourself
if this happens then Ill do that."
Thoroughly plan and prepare for the session. You will know what
to do or you will know the options to present to the group for them without
the complications that the "Thinker" brings. Fear comes from
memories and possibilities rooted in the "Thinker. You will
not suffer facilitateophobia. You have no fear of what might happen because
you, as the "Watcher, are in the here and now and this is where
present and honest with your group. As a beginning facilitator, you
may fear that you'll run across a situation that you haven't experienced
before, didn't prepare, and didn't anticipate. Well guess what, that happens
to all of us. Human dynamics are just too complex to be fully predictable
all of the time. One thing is assured however, by being fully present
and honest about what you know and don't know, you provide the group with
a clear mirror about where they are now. This is the grand gift of the
"watcher." Armed with this perspective in the here and now.
Then you can help them decide what to do next. As a facilitator, you act
as a catalyst for the group's decision-making, you are not the decision-maker!
About the Author: Fred Niziol facilitated for the US Social Security
Administration for 8 years doing IT groups, labor management IBB sessions,
strategic planning and facilitator training. He worked with community
organizations and served as a member of the IAF and the Mid-Atlantic Facilitator
Network (MAFN). He's also a contributing author to The IAF Handbook of
Disaster, Crisis & Trauma Intervention:
Building Community Resilience and Self-Reliance
Facilitating Psycho-Social Reconstruction
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