In order to grow and maintain communities where individuals are invited to trust each other and themselves it is essential for the person facilitating to set the standard for trustworthiness. I say facilitator and not leader for a very distinct reason. Leaders need followers in order to be leaders, right? But if we are trying to build community and invite people into safe space where they can explore the movement of the Spirit in their lives, our need to be a leader can very often get in the way. Primarily, if we as the holders and inviters into the space are anything, we are facilitators. We pay most close attention to the transitions, not so much to having the final word. We walk the group through the layers.
A trustworthy facilitator is considering trust levels long before a group ever begins their official conversation. The way we welcome people immediately tells them how close they are able to get with us. Do I welcome people with a hug or a hand shake, asking them how things are going, or do I wait in another room quietly for everyone to join me? Often, I will start the group with a story or thought that I had that day or right before I got there… one that usually makes me look a bit goofy or silly. Last night, at Spiritual Integration, when someone said they heard I was going to help them find God, I noted that I was pursuing enlightenment at the ranch, while shoveling cow manure. Already, they see me as one who is pretty normal. Trustworthy facilitators build trust by meeting people on their level before the official gathering even starts.
Most often, unless participants in the group are very familiar with how the gatherings usually proceed, there are new people who don’t know what is about to happen. No one is really hurt by a general overview of how our time will go… even if they have heard it a hundred times. Without it, though, someone who is new will never be close to the same page as the rest of the group. They are already at a disadvantage with the Trust Factor. To be a trustworthy facilitator means to build trust from the very beginning… by letting people know where we are going to go together.
Another thing that is extremely important for trustworthy facilitators is to establish the intention of a safe space from the very beginning and to name their intention of protecting that space. This allows the group to begin to feel that they can count on this person to be there for them. Confidentiality, treating others as they would like to be treated, no pressure to share, and willingness to take the time each person needs are a few trustworthy intentions to be noted.
The way we physically hold the space (posture, nonverbals, how we listen, etc) is also important, but I will have to write another post on that one. The last thing I would note in this post is the notion of total awareness, especially to the time! It is extremely frustrating when the group goes over with the time and it is clear that the facilitator does not know it or doesn’t care. We lose people immediately because they are trying to tell us as facilitators that we are going over. If we are the ones keeping it going, even worse. It is essential to note when time is almost up and to ask if we might carry it on a little later. This is trust-building.