THE EXPERIENCE OF FACILITATION

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Facilitation is challenging work that calls forth a wide range of emotions. Part of

this work involves helping group members deal productively with their emotions

while they are addressing difficult issues. It is equally important to deal with your

own emotions as facilitator. Because your emotions and how you deal with them

profoundly determine your effectiveness, the Skilled Facilitator approach involves

understanding how you as a facilitator feel during facilitation and using these feelings

productively.

These feelings are about yourself and the group you are working with. Throughout

the facilitation, various events trigger your own reactions. You may feel satisfied

having helped a group work through a particularly difficult problem or proud

to see the group using some of the skills they have learned from you.Yet when your

work goes so smoothly that the group does not recognize your contribution, you

may feel unappreciated.When the group is feeling confused and uncertain about

how to proceed in their task, you may be feeling the same way about the facilitation.

If your actions do not help the group as well as you would like, you may feel

ashamed because your work does not meet your own standards. You may be frustrated

by a group’s inability to manage conflict even if you have been asked to help

the group because they are having problems managing conflict. You may feel sad

watching a group act in ways that create the very consequences they are trying to

avoid, feel happy that you can identify this dynamic in the group, and feel hopeful

seeing that the group’s pain is creating motivation for change.

The Skilled Facilitator Approach 33

At one time or another, I have experienced each of these feelings as a facilitator;

they are part of the internal work of facilitation. The Skilled Facilitator approach

enables you to become more aware of these feelings and increases your ability to

manage them productively—what some refer to emotional intelligence (Goleman,

1995; Salovey and Mayer, 1990). I have found that my ability to develop these emotional

skills is both distinct from and related to my larger set of knowledge, skills,

and experience as a facilitator. Although there are many ways to improve my facilitation

skills that do not focus on dealing with my emotions, my use of any of

these skills becomes more powerful if I am attuned to my feelings and to others’

feelings and deal with them productively.

Through facilitating groups, you also come to know yourself by reflecting on

how you react to certain situations, understanding the sources of your feelings,

and learning how to work with your feelings productively. In doing so, you not only

help yourself but increase your ability to help the groups with which you work.