To follow on from Shawn’s post on building trust and rapport in anecdote circles there is one key element which I think is often overlooked. Silence. I have blogged before about the power of silence, however it is the silence of the facilitator which I want to emphasise in this post.
In todays environment of facilitation, there seems to be an emphasis, maybe even an expectation on the facilitator leading the group, keeping a high profile and always having something to say. I think of this as the control mode of facilitation.
Facilitating anecdote circles is different. The facilitator takes a very low profile, letting the group evolve and emerge with its own dynamics and content. I have found that by using the words like “exploring themes” rather than “I have some questions for you to answer” is a kind of open language which allows for the spirit of group empowerment to emerge.
Reducing eye contact with those sharing their stories, yet respecting and listening is another way the facilitator takes a low profile. The final one is the use of silence. One side of this is helping a group feel comfortable with silences. The other is, as a facilitator, how do you keep silent? Especially in the west with our predominance of the ‘thinking mind’ it is very easy for us to get enticed into the ‘why’s’ of a conversation and want to ‘interject’. However, in an anecdote circle that is not the facilitators role. Their role is to provide a safe and comfortable environment for participants to share their stories.
We are currently collecting and processing data from evaluations of our anecdote circles and it appears that this approach of ‘safe silence’ appears to help groups experience trust and deep sharing within a group.
What is your experience of silence in group situations?
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