Well I’ve been facilitating, learning, and progressing with Breakview Sensitivity Training now for just over two months, and one thing that has been developing in my skill set is the ability to display an effective level of empathy with my clients’ feelings while also managing to keep the lesson productive. Given the importance of one’s neutrality in the role of facilitator, there are multiple skills related to this topic that I am focusing on improving in order to make each course a success. This post outlines my most recent developmental focus points. The ideas and tips mentioned below come, for the most part, from my trainer and mentor, Charles Gordon.
One of the biggest reasons why this set of skills requires strong understanding and experience is because it is natural for us as humans to convey empathy and console others when they talk about their stressors and frustrations. It is natural to try and help others solve their personal issues. In order to avoid these instincts during a training and keep a safe culture for all, it is important to keep a few tips in your back pocket in the likely event that your client decides to share their personal story with you. The tips can be found below, however first I present two steps to take when listening to a client’s personal issue — all provided to me by Charles.
Steps for Handling a Client’s Personal Perspective
“First, acknowledge the positive stuff or the validity of their concern or narrative. Finding some kernel of truth (positive) or acknowledging their concern makes it easier to redirect or help them to have a serious look at their own blind spot or faulty storyline.
Second, use questions to redirect or present the big idea of the lesson as a tool to adjust their narrative in a way that leads to a constructive conclusion or way forward.” (Charles)
Using these steps helps facilitators learn how to listen and redirect discourse into a progressive direction. Before these steps are even necessary, however, one can practice some new systems of logic in preparation for future instances by remembering three tips: (1) understanding your natural limits is important, (2) getting involved in clients’ specific issues is not helpful, and (3) social time (lunch, breaks, etc.) is a time for examplar behavior.
(1) Always consider your limitations. In a five- to seven-hour session, a client can only take-in so much. A facilitator should exercise professional judgement and guide the course through a healthy, relevant set of lessons and remember that learning and compliance take time.
(2) Do not directly help clients solve their personal unique issues by offering your own opinions or intuitions. As Charles has said, “Sometimes we see a path (thought process or narrative structure) that makes sense and we try to sell our way of shifting the elements of their story. Don’t.” Otherwise we make judgements based on one perspective while also inserting ourselves into the story.
(3) Use your casual time with the clients (lunch, breaks, etc.) as a place for exemplary behavior in your role of facilitator. Respect the boundaries and the expectations that come with your role and stay true to the models we preach in our lessons.
The Big Idea
The big idea here is that facilitators must understand how to maintain an environment where sensitivity training clients feel comfortable receiving professional feedback and concentrating on their plan of improvement in the workplace. As stated previously, a facilitator should never make judgments based on the client’s one perspective of the story; in fact we should keep a neutral stance by “maintaining a questioning posture” and holding the the mindset of “I need to make it safe for clients to challenge their own presuppositions and mythical beliefs” (Charles). New information and action plans can take time to latch on, however a successful course can guide clients closer to the information they need most. By keeping these ideas in mind and ready for use in a session, one can stay professionally neutral while at the same time showing empathy for the client and their personal issues.