Facilitator Journal | Issue #0273, October 10, 2006 ....
One of the keys to getting results with groups is creating
a safe space for people to share what they might not otherwise share.
But in a world where judgment is rampant, most of us have learned
to keep our guard up and to be very careful about what we share,
especially if it's of a personal nature. In
this week's article, "Notice
What Works," we explore the use of discernment
in favor of judgment
groups identify their most effective path.
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Notice What Works
discernment in favor of judgment
groups identify their most effective path.
One of the keys
to getting results with groups is creating a safe space for people to share
what they might not otherwise share. But in a world where judgment is rampant,
most of us have learned to keep our guard up and to be very careful about
what we share, especially if it's of a personal nature.
we continue, lets draw a distinction between "judgment" and "discernment."
By "judgment," I mean placing a label of "right" or
"wrong," "good" or "bad" on something or someone.
I use the term "discernment" to denote the act of simply noticing
consider one of your participants, we'll call him "Joe," who continues
to take the floor and take the group on tangents. If we called Joe a troublemaker
or a jerk for this behavior, we would be making a judgment of him. However,
if we instead used discernment, we might say that every time Joe speaks,
he seems to speak about things other than what the rest of the group is
See the difference? Judgment casts blame, which often inspires guilt. Using
discernment, we simply notice what's going on in a factual way.
As facilitators, we want to use discernment and avoid making judgment. To
support our groups, we use discernment to help them discover what's working
and what isn't. Discernment language comes from a neutral stance, and when
directed to an individual, it's difficult for its recipient to take offense.
However, when a judgment is made, offense is almost always taken. And judgment
tends to make us defensive or to withdraw.
facilitators are accepting of all people, they don't make judgment. However,
they are adept at discerning functional from dysfunctional behaviors and
inquiring into the perceived value of such behaviors.
Using discernment instead of judgment gives you the opportunity to call
out behavior of questionable value and let the owners of this behavior
decide whether they want to continue it or not.
Now I know that most of you are probably well aware of the distinction
between judgment and discernment. But what if you were to teach this distinction
to your participants, offering them the opportunity to practice it as
well? How might that impact their communication and teamwork?
For example, consider a group within which you notice judgment being cast
about among their teammates. Sue tells Bob that he's a procrastinator.
Bob snaps back calling Sue an army sergeant. These of course are judgment,
judgment that don't necessarily communicate the true nature of the behaviors.
Suppose you were to coach Sue and Bob to express to one another their
observations of each others behavior instead of making judgment. For instance,
you might say something like, "Sue and Bob, how are these judgment
you're making of one another working for you? Are they helping you improve
your working relationship? Helping you to be more productive?"
They both respond with, "Well no, not really."
You've then created an opening to coach Sue and Bob to move past their
judgment and to describe instead, the particular behaviors that caused
them to judge in the first place. Once behaviors are defined, you can
help them sort out the truth of the matter and seek resolution that works.
Again, keep checking in with your group about what works, helping them
move toward an orientation of progress rather than getting stuck in a
morass of judgment that go nowhere.
can you use discernment in your work with groups? Please click reply and
share your comments. I'd love to hear from you.
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