Helping Young Leaders Become Skilled Facilitators

By Karan Deengar

Last week, I nervously entered into my first facilitation this semester.  My role as facilitator was to help Make Your Mark on Madison’s young student leaders gain facilitation tools that they could use when working with their new members. The workshop was broken into two facilitation models; the first one was World Café and the other one, Public Conversations Project. I was a facilitator for World Café and as we went through the process I began to enjoy myself and relax a little. I asked questions that kept the discussion going and helped them elaborate on their thoughts. I also answered their questions about what we do as facilitators of JMU’s Institute for Constructive Advocacy and Dialogue (ICAD), and gave them some advice on facilitation. The students I talked with were invested in this workshop and eager to learn. Their energy motivated me and quickly got rid of any nervousness I felt before.

A notable moment for me came when I was asked “What do you do when someone takes control of the entire conversation by speaking too much and does not give others a chance to express their views?” This was my chance to put my knowledge to the test and serve an enthusiastic participant.

I told them that first, the facilitator needs to validate that person. After they feel they have been heard they are more likely to listen to other people’s opinion. I then explained that it is also helpful to summarize what the person said and then ask those who haven’t spoken much to share their thoughts. It’s important to be mindful of this problem in group discussion, especially when we are discussing controversial issues. It was these kinds of thoughtful questions that helped them learn and helped me grow as facilitator.

The personal impact for me as an ICAD affiliate was seeing how engaged and earnest these students were in learning how to facilitate. It made me happy that I had the opportunity to share my knowledge and skills that could help others with their goals. The skills required to being a good facilitator are skills that help you through all walks of life, especially when it comes to leadership roles. The ability to ask engaging questions and make people feel comfortable with sharing their thoughts is invaluable. I walked away from this facilitation confident in myself, and no matter what I do in the future I want to continue to cultivate my facilitation skills and use these skills to help people whenever I can.

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