Master Facilitator Journal

Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0542, June 13, 2012

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Dear Friends,

One of the most valuable listening tools I often teach in my facilitation courses is the Voice Mirror, a technique I picked up from my colleague Sue Walden of Improvisational Facilitator fame. This tool is profound in many ways. One of the biggest insights that surprise people when they learn this technique is that we don't have to think to listen effectively. Thinking is not required. In fact, our thinking gets in the way of us fully listening and relating to others. Let me know what you think of this tool as you read about it in the article below and hopefully try it out.

Improv Skills Solve Facilitator's Greatest Fears!
A strong statement? Perhaps. And I've found the improv skills taught by Sue Walden in this 5-day teleclass, The Improvisational Facilitator, to be life changing whether you apply them to facilitation or to any other endeavor that involves relating to others, to yourself, and to your own creativity. In this course, she presents powerful, practical improv techniques you can use to immediately enhance your facilitation, training, and group leadership skills. See details on our self-guided version below. MFJ readers save 30% by entering the coupon code VIP30 at checkout.

If you or your colleagues are interested in submitting an article for consideration, please email your ideas. I'd love to hear from you. We hope our work continues to bring inspiration to your world. Thank you for being a part of our growing community and please continue to send your wonderful feedback.


Steve Davis



The Point

Using the Voice Mirror to Listen Without Judging
Sharpen your listening through presence

Self-Mastery Skill


Our modern society has a love affair with thoughts and thinking. And for good reason. For without them, there'd be some pretty big voids in our world. Where would education be? How about science, engineering, economics, and politics? So many pillars of our culture rest on the advances we've made in our thoughts about things that it's no wonder we value them so much.

Any strength, if overused, can become a liability. I believe this is also true of this tool we call thinking. I believe that many of the ailments that plague modern society come not only from an increase in environmental stressors, but also from our response to them. As the pace picks up and our thinking becomes more complex, it become that much more difficult to quiet our minds--a common complaint made by many people today.

As it turns out, with all this thinking and the wonderful things that thinking has created for us, we begin to believe that if we stop, thinking that is, the world will stop with it. In a sense, that may be true, and a subject for another article. For now, consider how much thinking grass or trees engage in. Yet see how they thrive in the proper environments. They seem to know what to do to grow and evolve with the little thinking they do. In fact, what if thinking actually gets in the way of our growth?

Let's take listening for example. A skill of primary importance to facilitators and group leaders. When we listen to someone and our minds are chattering away thinking of what we're going to say next or what we just had for lunch, how well are we really listening?

Is it possible to listen without thinking? Or is listening simply the act of not talking. I think real listening is about presence. And thinking can remove you from the present

Rather than waxing theoretical any further on this subject, and risking engaging you in yet further thinking, let me leave you with an exercise to try on your own to get an experience of listening without thinking. The exercise below is called the Voice Mirror. My friend and colleague, Sue Walden, introduced this to me several years ago, and it's one of many skills she teaches in our Improvisational Facilitator teleclass.


The Voice Mirror

The “Voice Mirror is a key tool to helping you stay attentive when listening to others, especially with the numerous distractions and demands in your environment--not to mention the distractions inside your head. The Voice Mirror provides a method for tuning out you expectations, assumptions and past history, which interrupts your ability to be present and to listen. Here is how you can learn the technique:

STEP 1. Turn on a radio talk show or the television. Select one voice and begin whispering the words of the speaker at the same time the speaker says them, matching them word for word. (This is mirroring, not mimicking, repeating or echoing.)

STEP 2. As you become more comfortable practicing this, drop the sound and continue to move your mouth, matching/mirroring the words.

STEP 3. Eventually, move the mirror into your mind, so that your thoughts match word-for-word (without external sound or movement) what the speaker is saying. Practice both with eyes open and eyes closed.

Don’t rush through these steps—this type of focused listening is not an easy habit to acquire and will take effort and practice. Until you learn how to do it silently (in your head), you may want to continue your practice privately with the radio or television.

After you are comfortable with this new tool, you can use it any time you feel your mind start to chatter or wander. Most people find they only need to “Voice Mirror” for 15 to 30 seconds to tune right back in to the speaker.

Note: Exercise submitted by Sue Walden, Founder and Director of ImprovWorks, a non-profit organization dedicated to building Life Skills through Improvisation.

Add Your Comments


After practicing the above exercise, practice the voice mirror while listening to a friend or colleague. What happened for you? How was this a different listening experience for you? I'm curious to hear what you discovered. Please click on Add Your Comments to share your questions, feedback, or experience.

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A week after the course I have found myself talking about and actually using the techniques taught! The experiential based learning really worked for me and I learnt whilst having fun – always a good way to retain new learnings. The course has provided me with a toolkit of great techniques to improve my own facilitation, as well as some enjoyable exercises to use with delegates. I have nothing but praise for both Sue and Steve, who walked their talk with their own facilitation skills – they simply flowed through the course with grace and intelligence. The content, the materials and the facilitators is 5 star stuff and I highly recommend it to any facilitator. --Amanda Alexander, Coach and Founder of

The Improvisational Facilitator Teleclass...
The inner attitudes of facilitators, trainers, and leaders is the key to their success with groups. However, very few trainings address the development of those inner qualities that can make a good leader great. That's why I'm thrilled to be offering this class where we'll present powerful, practical improv techniques that are actually inner attitudes and practices that you can use to immediately enhance your facilitation, training, and group leadership skills.

This dynamic teleclass, led by master trainer, Sue Walden, is for anyone who facilitates, manages, teaches, mediates, coaches, counsels, directs any group. This highly interactive course provides an experiential approach using very novel exercises to help you build the skills to create an environment for participation; one that encourages openness and risk-taking for you and groups.

Improvisational Facilitator Training Agenda...
Here's what you'll be learning and doing during the course...

Being present to your natural creativity

  • Overview
  • Introducing the Parking Lot
  • Awareness experience
  • What is your default facilitation skill set?
  • Improv Core Skills that support facilitation
  • Exploring 1st Core Skill: Present Time
  • The "Voice Mirror," a simple and powerful listening tool
  • Facilitation Applications

Building the "muscle" that encourages participation

  • Check in on practice assignment
  • Explore 2nd Core Skill: Openness
  • Experiencing the look and feel of openness
  • Building the openness “muscle”
  • The "Yes and..." approach
  • Facilitation Applications

Making flexibility a way of being

  • Check in about practice assignment
  • Explore 3rd Core Skill: Flexibility
  • Combining Being Present and Open to become more flexible
  • Identify unexpected challenges in facilitating
  • Building the options and possibilities “muscle”
  • Facilitation Applications

Witnessing the magic

  • Check in about practice assignment
  • Introduce “The Observer”
  • Apply Core Skills to self
  • Getting present with self
  • Quiet the inner critic
  • Think on your feet
  • Be aware of your language
  • Facilitation Applications

Further applications and applied Improv

  • Check in about practice assignment
  • Explore other applications of Improv Core Skills
  • Emptying the Parking Lot
  • Q & A with the Applied Improv Process

I've been to lots of teleclasses but have never done offline partner exercises like this and they worked great, they really heightened the learning. Excellent resource book.

The sessions were very complimentary to the skills that I have gained over a number of years. As well as practical exercises the trainers provided useful insight to support their theory. It was enlightening to hear everybody participate and be engaged in the subject. An excellent class that I highly recommend. --Chris Whitehead ,Managing Director of Facilitating Change--

Also included with your training...
In addition to the training described above, you also receive:
1. Free Learning/Resource Workbook ($20 value) to help you drill down deep and master the art of improv for use in facilitation, training, leadership, and group work.
2. Free pre-recorded one-hour real audio teleclass, "The Art of Improv in Facilitation, featuring Izzy Gesell, who discusses the use of humor and improvisational theater techniques as facilitation tools.($20 value).
3. Articles and resources around using Improv in leadership and facilitation:
__- Collection of humor and improv resources.
__- The Six Paradoxes of Improv. Six paradoxes that will help free you to be a better facilitator and trainer.
__- Leadership Through Improv. Article on how Improv techniques can be applied to leadership.

I really enjoyed the Improv class. Great material, excellent delivery including the opportunities to "try it out" in partner settings. --Sandy Brown, Facilitator, Intel Corporation--

Self-Guided Real Audio Version
If you'd like to learn this material at your own pace and on your own schedule, you can purchase the MP3 audio version of this teleclass complete with the learning guide. You'll be provided with access to recorded offerings of the five-hour teleclass (5 hours total) that you can listen to online and follow along in the learning guide is used in the live class. Click below to purchase for $79.


Click here to purchase for $79

Self-Guided 5-Day CD Version
The Compact Disk (CD) version comes with all of the self-guided features listed above, together with 5 CD's you'll receive by mail that you can listen to anywhere you have access to a CD player. Click here to purchase for $89.

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If, for any reason, you are not satisfied with this package, simply email us with a request to refund/credit your credit card in the full amount and we will do so immediately. This policy completely removes the buying risk for you and keeps our customer-satisfaction rates extremely high.

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