Interaction!!Interaction!! everywhere…Do I stop anywhere :-

The context for the Blog is on Facilitation

Chanchal Chawla (some one very new to facilitation) is very disturbed after conducting a session on ‘Conflict management‘, today. She had done extensive preparation for her session, was extremely thorough with the concepts and had structured the flow of the session. However, to her utter surprise, her session was completely hi-jacked by the participants. What started out as a simple answer to a question on ―How does one handle conflicting situations, suddenly turned into a heated discussion among the participants. At first, Chanchal allowed the interaction to build and did not intervene, a little latter she was tempted to, but didn‘t because she thought it is only going to help her do the debrief. However by the time she intervened (which was after 15-20 minutes) she realized that it was immensely difficult to get anyone to stop and had to literally shout at the top of her voice to get the participant’s attention. Even after the discussions had stopped, there were people who were not ready to listen to zero down on ―the solution for handling conflict. Chanchal somehow managed to wind up the session and was very unhappy with the way the entire session went, also one of the common feedback she received from everyone was that she allowed the session to digress. Chanchal is completely at sea; she is not sure what could she have done better to keep the interaction on track and where do draw the line between learner‘s interaction and her own intervention.

Have you faced this situation before? Have you ever wondered where to draw that ― “Laxman Rekha” and say, ―now I take over? well, a lot of time this problem arises because as facilitators we are fighting the battle of being people pleasers. We are so concerned about how people perceive us that we find it very difficult to ask them to stop. We are always thinking about being part of a virtual popularity contest and wanting to win it. As facilitators we need to break this virtual popularity game contest first in our mind and then in the session. The trick is to tell ourselves that there will be a few people who will not be pally with me personally at the end of the session and I am ok with that incompatibility. I am, as a facilitator, a custodian of the process of learning and I will be true to my role. As a custodian of the process to en-sure effective interaction, I am supposed to do the following things:

1. Detail out clear instructions to the participants. The instructions should contain your expectations from the participants and things that they should ideally want to steer clear off while sharing their thoughts.

2. It is very important to come in and stop the group from digressing into any unnecessary discussion. For example, the participants (provided they have a common source of pain) might focus so much on the doer that they lose out on discussing the cause and solution. The discussion might venture from sharing the person‘s qualities (either good or bad), to sharing a lot of, uncalled for, incidents. This discussion, although very interactive, would not help you achieve the objective of the discussion.

3. Always try and ensure that learners are not getting personal during the interaction. As this might lead to bad blood between the participants, and create animosity. This in turn has a negative impact on the learning environment

4. Be very sure about why you want a discussion? A lot of time facilitators gets into a discussion just for the heck of it. People have a discussion because they want to kill time, they don‘t have anything better to do etc. Till the time you are not dead sure about why you want to do the discussion, it will lead to negative outcomes.

Understand the pulse of the group and try to pitch in at least to close/summarize aspects of discussions and get them thinking about a newer area.

Excess of anything leads to a pitfall and that holds true for interaction during a training session as well. Be smart and draw the line when you can……

(The writer is a certified Instructional designer and Facilitates behavioral learning interventions and can be reached at sumeshkhatua@gmail.com)

Contributed by Sumesh Kumar Khatua (Class of 2005, IBS Gurgaon)

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