One of the things I often have to do when I'm facilitating is challenge people's thinking. Depending on the person, the response can vary widely. Some people will understand that the "poke" is designed to get them thinking, while others will react to the discomfort they feel. Some of these people will react strongly and fight back.
I find the latter reactions are more common than the former. As my experience as a facilitator has grown, I've noticed that I'm quite comfortable challenging people and stay calm and focussed even when I'm being attacked.
Over the last two days I've been working with a group who were not used to being challenged. It looked like their expectations of training courses was that they would be lulled to sleep by endless power point slides and they would walk out two days later pretty much unchanged by the experience. The conversations I facilitate are not like that at all and the first day can be bumpy!
At the end of today, I was pleased to hear the changes in people's thinking. One participant unexpectedly said that he appreciated being challenged and admired the way I had held the frame even when under attack from the group. Music to my ears!
I've been thinking about how I do this. I've realised that my mindset is everything. Here's what I've observed:
1. I'm there to challenge and provoke thinking while keeping everyone safe.
2. My role is not to be liked and be friends with everyone in the room.
3. I am not part of the group; I am in service of the group.
4. Moving out of one's comfort zone is necessary for learning to occur.
5. Adults know what they have to do and know the answers. The conditions just have to be right for them to discover this or make decisions to act. My job is to create and maintain those conditions - they're going to be different for everyone.
6. My job is to support people to think.
As a fairly fast paced extrovert, one of the things I have to be vigilant about is that I'm adjusting my pace to allow slower paced people or introverts time and space to think and then answer. Once my pace is adjusted, I need to work on staying present in the conversation (rather than thinking about how the person needs to hurry up, for example).
It's so satisfying when people highlight what they discovered. Often they will thank me for that poke or prod I gave them that shoved them out of their comfort zone. It's then that I am reminded that staying true in the stormy seas was the gift that I gave to the group.