Personal Work Moves A Facilitator Beyond Illusion
“The success of any intervention is
completely dependent upon the
interior condition of the intervenor”
William O’Brien, Former CEO, Hanover Insurance
My former partner, friend and colleague, William (Bill) O’Brien (deceased), was notorious for his quote about the “interior condition of the intervenor”. As Bill believed that love was the act of helping another to complete her/himself, it was his strong view that as a facilitator, you need to do your own personal work in order to be centered and aware about how you participate with others.
David Bohm felt similarly. In 1992, after working with many Dialogue groups, his conclusion was that “people were not doing enough work on their own, apart from the Dialogue groups.” In further discussion by way of 15 conversations Bohm had with Krishnamurti, together they established that we, as human beings, have a strong need to impose our illusory goals on to others. The heart of any conversation therefore rests upon the ideas we hold about ourselves and others. In short, Bohm and Krishnamurti came to the shared conclusion that It’s All About Me”.
If it’s true that this is the human default; and if the success of an intervention does rest on the development and maturity of our inner state, how then do we become facilitators who can intervene in meaningful ways?
The first step is mindfulness. You need to be mindful of what is happening inside of you and how that is impacting (or imposing) the people you are trying to guide. Here are some tenets to keep in mind:
- Create a safe container. As the facilitator, you must create an environment that feels safe for you and others. As the initial holder of the “field”, it is important to pay attention to your own assumptions, judgments and insights and learn how to suspend them.
- Examine how you listen. Most often we tend to project our own opinions and ideas, prejudices, background, inclinations and impulses on to others. I believe this is the conclusion from Bohm and Krishnamurti’s dialogue sessions. When our own views dominate, we hardly listen at all to what is being said. Yet when one listens, one learns. Only in a state of attention is it possible to communicate.
- Balance asking questions and giving opinions. As a facilitator of any intervention, it is important to be in a state of inquiry more often than you give views or replies. Mindfulness is truly required here. You need to pay attention to when you are asking questions and when you are giving opinions or answers. Too much of the latter is an indicator that you are projecting too much of yourself on to others.
- Slow down the pace of your conversation. It is essential to build silence into the interaction between you and others. Hit the pause button once in a while. Slowing down helps you to be more present, allowing for better listening and deeper communication.
- Pay attention to your internal reactions. Notice whether you are responding or reacting to others’ statements. If you are reacting to statements made by others, it is a strong indicator that you are no longer present. It is also an indicator that you will not be able to listen with the intent to fully understand what is being shared and the meaning it evokes.
Before you speak, ask three questions:
- Have I heard what’s been said?
- Is it my turn to speak?
- Is my contribution in service to the group?
- Have I heard what’s been said?
This will help you discern in advance whether you are actively participating with what is trying to emerge or simply fulfilling your own ego needs.
The second step is to commit to daily (or set of) practice(s). A successful facilitator begins with the journey inside and knows the importance of what it means to cultivate mindfulness. Any activity that includes a single point of focus and repetition puts your mind and body into a lower frequency state. In this state, it becomes easier to (a) regulate your attention; (b) be more aware of your body; (c) normalize emotions; and (d) change perspective of the self.
Meditation is a good example of a practice you can use to cultivate mindfulness over time. Other examples include journaling; energy work (such as Tai Chi or Qigong); incorporating Nature into your daily routine; and art (such as painting or sculpting). It requires practice to become comfortable with mindfulness techniques. The most crucial point here is to include techniques that are appropriate and meaningful; if one method does not work for you, try another.
With commitment, consistency and some discipline, you will not only better accept all of your experiences with less judgment; you will also find that your performance, attention, body awareness and positive emotion have improved in ways that are beneficial to you and the groups you serve.