Imagine a deep well of stillness; a place of support and unflinching focus, like a newborn being held in a mother’s arms. This kind of total attention and respect for what is possible underscores the archetype of forbearance. The empathic facilitator can see into situations of conflict and difficulty to provide renewed focus. They can look into the eyes of group members with such openness that the group feels empowered to reach new levels of proficiency. Behaviors common to this archetype include testing and clarifying assumptions, supporting new ideas and approaches, and connecting with participants in emotional distress.
One of the articles of faith for a facilitator is that a group is more powerful than the sum of its parts. The empath holds absolute trust that the group is capable of remarkable wisdom and the ability to solve any problem.
The Empath Competencies
- Be inwardly and outwardly silent to hold space of the group.
- Place attention on participants, not myself
- Be empathetic, putting myself in other’s shoes
- Honor participant’s ability to experience and process their thoughts & feelings.
Focus on Group. When you feel an internal conversation or judgment beginning, refocus on the group. Find a person or object in the room to help reground your wandering mind into the present moment. You can also grab a marker, paper clip or other object to remind yourself to get out of more habitual thoughts.
Restating. One way to ensure that you are paying close attention to the group is to restate your understanding of the conversation. Summarizing like this accomplishes a few things: it slows down the conversation to help ideas sink in; recasts ideas into terms that more people can remember; and lets the group know that they can count on you to be listening.
Integral Facilitator’s Primer & Self-Assessment. Complete this assessment to determine your level of competency for each of these archetypes, then consider the questions that follow to help you craft a development plan to enhance your skills.
This model is taught in an applied format during our Journey of Facilitation and Collaboration Workshop, a five-day experiential event offered regularly at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and sometimes at other locations throughout the country based on interest and by invitation.