Franklin Habit has said about teaching: “…the job seems to require the sort of skills one would need to pilot a bus full of live chickens backwards, with no brakes, down a rocky road through the Andes while simultaneously providing colorful and informative commentary on the scenery.”
I think the same can also be said about facilitation, and indeed there is a close relationship between teaching and facilitating as different points on the same spectrum. In my experience, facilitation often feels like you’re flying by the seat of your pants. And, in fact, you are. There’s a certain amount of control you must give up. You must sit in a drifting boat and ride the river current whilst navigating rocks and rapids and never actually being able to control the flow of the water. The only thing you can control is the boat rudder. You adjust course along the way, responding to new currents and eddies in the water, gradually guiding the boat down river.
When I walk into a training I’m giving or a session I’m facilitating, I’ve learned to take with me a well thought out plan and an overabundance of topics, activities, and options. I’ve also learned to be fully prepared to chuck the whole thing and start over with a new plan after the first fifteen minutes. Why? Because sometimes what we plan doesn’t fit with reality. The mood and atmosphere of the space and group must dictate much about our approach in order for it to be as successful as possible. So how do we know what to do when and how to shift? Intuition. John Paul Lederach writes, “The core of the practice of haiku is to find your way to intuition unfettered by logic, explanation, or even emotion. Intuition is a funny thing. Most of us don’t trust it. In fact, most training about conflict resolution and peacebuilding seems to be built on skills that reduce, circumvent, or ignore intuition. But if you have ever talked at length with good practitioners about how they know what they should or should not do next, or even more if you talk with people working on peacebuilding who are from the setting of violence, you will hear that what they circumvent are the rules of proper procedure. What they follow is their gut”* This reliance on intuition in peacebuilding and faciltiation is what makes them an art. Generally speaking, I find my gut is working just as hard if not harder than my brain when I’m training or facilitating. I’m constantly feeling, in the active sense, seeking feedback and hints on what direction to take next. At times it feels like I am actually growing roots into the floor and stretching branches out to envelop and feel the pulse of the space. I have come in holistic presence, planting myself in that space, committed to seeing it through to the end, and I am seeking to ensure the participants in the room are engaged and getting what they need. How do you use intuition in navigating life’s struggles?
The gut steers the boat Riding the water’s current Intuition guides
*Lederach, J.P. The Moral Imagination. Oxford University Press, 2005. p. 83