What happens when as a facilitator you find yourself being challenged by a delegate who is trying their best to control the conversation and force their perspective of what is right into the space ? This is a question I get asked a lot by delegates who live with this every day, however I seldom encounter it to the degree where there is simply no space left to facilitate.

Here are my reflections and learnings from what is currently my toughest servant leadership facilitation ever and the one that has brought with it a host of learnings.

The first learning (and the one that seems to be the hardest to remember under stress) is this – don’t respond to the content! The moment I (or anyone else) starts to respond to the facts and details in a statement you are sucked into rational thinking and win don’t loose. It is irrelevant how you frame your rebuttal, it is still a rebuttal and if someone is dead set that they are right and you are wrong you can be assured that their first statement is just the start – they have a whole slew of statement lined up waiting to prove that you are wrong and they are right.

Easier said than done, so what to do instead ? I have been giving this some long and hard thought and realised that the only way forward is to address the way content is being delivered. An example perhaps is more useful here.

“You are making a mountain out of a mole hill. There was nothing wrong with how we tackled the task. This is the first 4 minutes and we were just getting going. We got there in the end!’, said the delegate firmly

My response to this should have been something along the lines of, “Hmm! That sounded quite soft and reasonable but it isn’t feeling like that! I am feeling somehow like I am being put in my place and corrected ? Is anyone else feeling that ? ”

The point of the response is that it holds the person accountable for the impact they are having.

I realise more and more that we seem to be petrified of holding people accountable for the impact they have and as a result we give them carte blanche to be bully and humiliate and make everyone’s lives misery. Why ? Why do we consistently place someone else’s dignity above ours or the people around us ? Why do we believe that to stand up for ourselves, for our dignity and our value as humans is somehow wrong ? As if this is somehow treading on other people’s toes and their dignity when they never had any such respect for ours ?

My thinking is that when we talk to how people are talking to us we change the game entirely. We remove the rational thinking, win by argument, element and bring the humanness (or lack there-of) into the space.

How do you see it ?