“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”

- Nelson Mandela

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Art Suss and Flexibility - Dorianne Weil "DrD"

For the 26 years that I have had the privilege of working with forums through out the world I have participated in and witnessed the development of forum materials, manuals, aids and best practice guides.

The guidance and support offered to trainers, moderators and forum members has proved invaluable. This immeasurable assistance has ensured that the essential elements of forum are understood and experienced during the various training programmes and hopefully forum meetings.

Recently I have come across situations where strict adherence to “The Book” has reached overkill proportions.  Guidelines are literally adhered to as “inviolate rules” and the fine choices which are inherent in every situation become invisible to the moderator who is so keen to “do it right” that intuition is not considered and the EQ factor submerged.  Understandably, this is often indicative of lack of self trust in facilitation and hence the need for detailed outside direction every step of the way.

It is true that the majority of difficulty with forum functioning relates to insufficient adherence to tried and tested structures and processes.  However “too much of a good thing” turns an asset into a liability.  It is much like a good cook.  First, the recipe is followed to the letter.  Each ingredient carefully measured and combined in defined proportions.  Then, with expertise, suss, flexibility and a lot of tasting, a little more of this, or less of that makes the food unique and delicious.

Examples:

 Updates

  • Strictly no talking or interruptions - Sometimes gentle probing results in meaningful presentations that might be missed (see the Paradox of the Successful Update – Forum Advisor)
  • 5 Minute rule - Sometimes two minutes will do and others times six minutes is truly necessary.
  • Insistence of filling the time – Although this is not stated in the manuals it maybe interpreted as such by the moderators and result in unnecessary waffle.
  • Strict rotation – Again not stated but a practice characteristic of some forums. Sometimes a new thought is sparked which might be diluted if an individual is forced to wait their turn.
  • Literal interpretation of NO or nothing to say - Sometimes NO means “too scared”, “too embarrassed” or “not important enough” rather than “I don’t want to” and may be dealt with sensitively, with excellent results.
  • Writing everything down in the creation of a detailed parking lot - Sometimes judgement is called for in what to capture and in the construction of parking lots.  This enables decisions re presentations.

 Presentations

  • Discussion exactly twice as long as the presentation – usually but not necessarily.
  • Clarifying questions first – yes but allow for and even encourage the “human response” often in the form of a connecting or active listening comment.
  • Everything going through a central moderator – Not stated in the manuals but at times adhered to especially in new forums.
  • Strict adherence to the agenda – Real life here and now, emergency issues take precedence.
  • Never any advice –Obviously suggested because of the detrimental effects of “direct advice” in discouraging the presenter, in hearing diverse input, processing this information, resonating with it and accessing their own truth.  “It is in the manner” that advice is offered i.e. in the context of the forum protocol that is more important.

 Sometimes the moderator is reticent to self disclose re a current process or use their own suss and intuition to be flexible in obtaining buy-in from the forum and changing a course of action. eg “I’m uncomfortable about discussing this now when Mary seems so upset. What do you think?”  This may be far more authentic and beneficial to the forum if handled correctly.

Moderators may focus on the set agenda or purely on behaviour to the detriment of process and disregard or don’t even see the elephant in the room.

Everything that we do in forum relates to honouring of the other, connecting the group and celebrating the resultant sacred safe place.  If this is not happening we may need to “adjust the volume” of our best practices and ensure that “too much” does not result in negatively effecting our desired outcome.

This requires a partnership between the moderator as a person and what they have learnt or the integration of the trainer as a human being and their experiences and skills.  It is this balance that creates the magic.