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CONTENTS

Dressler, Larry Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub
Medium 9781576759707

3 Stand with Self-Awareness

Dressler, Larry Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The existence of limiting beliefs and thoughts is good news. It means that reality, as we experience it when we are stressed or angry or stuck, is more malleable than it often feels.

—Caitlin M. Frost
Facilitator and Coach,
Harvest Moon Consultants

AS FIRE TENDERS, HOW DO WE AVOID being swept away in the heat of a group? More accurately, how do we minimize the heat we create for ourselves when interactions in the group become intense or personal? This chapter is based on a simple premise: Self-awareness is the foundation for wise action. The better observers we become of our mental, emotional, and physical states, the more mindful our responses will be when we are standing in the fire. In other words, the more intimately we can come to know our emotional hot buttons, the better we are able to act from choice rather than impulse. The more we recognize our habitual and ego-driven ways of thinking, the more likely we are to speak and act in ways that serve the group.

The better observers we become of our mental, emotional, and physical states, the more mindful our responses will be when we are standing in the fire

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8 Stand with Compassion

Dressler, Larry Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Sometimes we guard our impartiality and professional distance at the expense of allowing compassion into our work.

—Sidney Wasserman
Professor of Social Work

BY THE END OF THIS CHAPTER I want you to be familiar with a way of standing with your heart wide open to yourself and to others. As change agents working in emotionally volatile situations, our goal is not to extinguish or become impervious to unpleasant feelings. Our goal is to learn to feel human fear and heartbreak without defaulting into a fight-or-flight mode. In this chapter we will explore how the capacities of emotional openness, self-acceptance, awareness of the whole person, and unconditional positive regard enable us to tend the fire in ways that invite human dignity into spaces where fear, intolerance, and aggression might otherwise take over.

Despite some older notions of the facilitator as someone “standing outside of it all,” we are in fact, a very real and connected part of the system.

Where there is group fire, there is often pain and suffering. And where there is suffering, there is nearly always the tendency for people to move into fight-or-flight reactions. Despite some older notions of the facilitator as someone “standing outside of it all,” we are in fact, a very real and connected part of the system. When things heat up, we have no heat-resistant suit to slip into, nor would it serve our purpose if we did.

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5 Stand with an Open Mind

Dressler, Larry Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

I’m not listening with the idea of deciding whether they are right or wrong, but trying to see the way they construct their world.

—Roger Schwarz
Author, The Skilled Facilitator:
A Comprehensive Resource for
Consultants, Facilitators, Managers,
Trainers, and Coaches

THIS CHAPTER DESCRIBES THE essential quality of receptivity. How do we maintain a stance of openness and curiosity, especially when we are seeing behavior and hearing views that we find difficult to accept? At times, the facilitator is the only person in the room who is not closing down, rejecting alternative ways of seeing, and losing hope of what might be accomplished. Our ability as facilitators to hold an unwavering stance of not knowing— while maintaining a sense of inquiry and optimism—is often the critical factor enabling a group to move beyond conflict and distress.

Whether as change agent, meeting host, negotiator, consultant, or facilitator, we bring expertise to the table. In fact, a good part of our identity is based on what we have studied in depth and practiced for many years. But seeing oneself as “someone who knows” carries a double edge. On the one hand, we can walk into a room with a sense of confidence in the things we hold to be true. On the other hand, we risk becoming too invested in that image of ourselves, which can lead to a lack of receptivity to other ways of seeing and knowing.

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11 Face the Fire

Dressler, Larry Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

When things heat up, it takes moment-by-moment awareness and adjustment to what you are feeling, thinking, and doing in the group. A brief lapse of awareness, and you can really set the process back.

—Myrna Lewis
Facilitator, Deep Democracy

MASTER FIRE TENDERS DON’T necessarily get triggered any less than others. But like championship ice-skaters, they seem to recover from missteps and falls more quickly and gracefully than the average leader. Most of the time, the in-the-moment self-correction occurs instantaneously, so that only the fire tender knows it occurred.

The self-directed practices in this chapter are specifically for use during meetings— in the heat of challenging events and difficult group dynamics. These practices for facing the fire assist us when we notice ourselves being pulled into a reactive or unbalanced state of being.

It is inevitable that at some point you will experience any number of strong thoughts and emotions—confusion, anger, fear, self-doubt, self-righteousness—on which you will be tempted to act. Practices for facing the fire are specifically aimed, first, at disrupting the natural impulse to act on those thoughts and feelings and, second, at replacing habitual reactions with more constructive responses.

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