As Group Facilitators, we are devoted to the process of helping people communicate about the issues important to them, typically related to the dynamics of the group (e.g., a public or non-profit board) or surrounding an issue (e.g., a citizen task force convened to advise elected officials about a current dispute). However, we are all human, and some people will just get to us. They may push our individual buttons, they may attack us directly and personally, and/or they may be continually disruptive to the group. In other words, some folks just drive you crazy while you are trying to present the persona of the calm, unbiased coordinator of the group process.
Non-verbal activities and subvocalizations are a typical cause of irritation to both members of the group and its facilitator. Sometimes the parties engaging in these behaviors are doing so with intent (to disrupt the group, show distain for others who don’t share their views, or to gain power in the dynamics of the group process). Others are not at all conscious of their behavioral quirks. In either case, the behaviors can be disruptive to the group’s deliberations and a direct challenge to the process authority of the Group Facilitator.
So, what can a Group Facilitator do? As a part of the first meeting, I always assist the group in finalizing a set of ground rules. A typical example is the set of ground rules for my current work with the Adams County Stormwater Utility Task Force. These ground rules always have statements involving respect for others group members and their right to state their opinions and ideas without interruption. Once the group […]