I had a great aha at Bootcamp last week that I wanted to share. We were discussing group dynamics, different learning styles, and facilitation and Eugene mentioned something about the potential flaws of facilitation that strives for equity. Often, facilitators feel they need to be equitable in who gets “floor time” and so they might try to draw “slow cookers” out in ways that can make them uncomfortable. Slow cookers by nature need to process before jumping in to group dialogue. By calling on them, you may get uncooked ideas and make people feel more self-conscious and cause them to further retreat.
This method is also not playing to the strengths of the group – some people are fast responders and/or need to process out loud. Their verbal processing can help slow cookers in their silent pursuit. I’m an out-loud processor and I tend to jump in quickly and speak often. I’m self-conscious about this and sometimes intentionally sit back to make room for others. This is very important at times. But our discussion made me also understand this as a strength. By doing what I feel comfortable doing – jumping right in – I make room for people who need to process more slowly. I can help set a framework and a slow cooker can come in and add critical insight later in the conversation. Both approaches are helpful in different ways.
Of course, there are times when people dominate the conversation and facilitators should shut that down and look for places where someone is trying to speak and is interrupted or can’t get in. At the same time, needing to hear from everyone could be inappropriate and forced. AND there are probably times when slow cookers DON’T need to hear out-loud-processors talk, talk, talk, but actually need silent reflection to formulate their thoughts.
I was thinking about this in the context of my organization’s board meetings and it made me realize that board and staff could use some skill-building in this arena. But taking the lessons from Changemaker Bootcamp, perhaps rather than bringing in an expert, we could do an exercise where as a group we come up with best practices for facilitation – using our own wisdom and past experience as a guide, and determining a framework for what works best for our group.