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The Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0047| April 2, 2002
7,700 Subscribers


Break Through Barriers.
Groups will get stuck now and then. When this happens, know how to move them in healthy ways.

The Point

As facilitators, at one time or another, we will run into a situation where our groups get stuck dead in their tracks. By getting stuck, I mean that the group's progress seems to have slowed down or stopped, energy is low, participation is spotty, and you get a hunch that the current course you are on is not going to get the group moving again.

Groups get stuck for a variety of reasons. Being stuck may be a symptom of conscious or unconscious resistance to moving forward by one or more group members, fear of potential consequences resulting from what might be uncovered by moving in the current direction, unspoken judgments or irritation among participants, or simple mental or emotional exhaustion of group members.

When you feel your group is stuck, it may be appropriate to shake things up by changing the process. Changes to the process can range from the simple act of taking a physical break to initiating a "clearing session" to move whatever energy is impeding forward progress. In the book, "The Art of Facilitation," several types of clearing processes are described that we have summarized below.


One-on-One Clearing: Use this process if it appears that only a few participants require completion. With this process, you could ask members to take a 15 min. break and invite anyone that has an unspoken issue with any other member, to express it in the following manner. Approach the person and express your positive commitment to the relationship, then describe the feeling or behavior you experience with them together with a specific incident if possible. Take turns speaking until all upset is cleared. Make any requests or promises along the way as desired. Ask for help from facilitators if needed.

Group Clearing. If it appears the whole group could benefit from a clearing, offer to do a group clearing session. First have someone express the purpose or vision of the group, then invite each participant to express what is getting in their way to full engagement in the group process. You could have them complete a stem sentence like, "What is getting in the way for me is..."

Clearing Yourself. If you feel a need to clear yourself as the facilitator, do the following. During a break, find an uninvolved participant and have them ask you the following question, "What do you need to say or do to get clear?" Ask this question of yourself if it's inappropriate to use a group member.

Getting Fully Present. Invite participants to share anything that will help them get more fully present with the group. This might be personal stuff they're hanging on to that if expressed will let them more fully engage. Give each member a time limit of 2-5 minutes.


This week, practice one of the above clearing exercises with your group, or practice "Clearing Yourself" as needed throughout the week when you're feeling stuck or stressed. We'd love to hear about your experiences. Please email your comments to us.

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Reader Survey 

Why do Groups Polarize?

This week, we're asking you explore with us the reasons that groups tend to polarize over issues. Please consider the following questions and respond with any ideas or perspectives you have on this issue.

Why do groups, whether they're political, religious, corporate, governmental, etc. tend to polarize, taking up opposite sides of an issue and then arguing over it? If individuals have differences in groups, why do they almost always create only two sides? Why not three, four, or five different sides? Why do they often put more energy into fighting over differences instead of discovering commonality

Please send us your input and we'll send the entire collection to everyone who contributes.

If you know someone who might benefit and enjoy this newsletter, please send this link to a friend.

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About the Author: 
Steve Davis is a Business and Life Coach facilitating others to reach  their full potential in their business and personal lives. Please email your stories, comments, suggestions, and ideas. Or call me at 800-216-3854. I'd love to hear from you. If you find this newsletter helpful, please forward it to your friends. Thanks for reading! 

In the Spotlight

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Thank you for reading this issue of the Master Facilitator Journal.  Look for your next issue on April 9, 2002.   

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