Johnnie Moore

Pulsation and play

Working flexibly with the to-and-fro of facilitation
Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

Ebb, flow and bringing ease to facilitation

Transcript of this video:

Many years ago, when I was probably earning a bit too much money, I decided to learn to fly. And many times when I was training, my instructor would have to remind me not to hold the flight controls with so much tension, just to relax a little at the controls in order to actually function more effectively.

And around the same time, I was in a group run by a therapist who said this, which really sticks in my mind: He said, (clutching his fist) this is not a heart, and (his hand fully open) this is not a heart, but this (opening and closing fist) is a heart.

It’s innately human to pulsate, our heart does it. Our lungs do it when we breathe in and out. But I think as human beings, we sometimes forget to pulsate and get stuck, like me at the controls too tight, or perhaps at the other extreme, just completely letting go.

But I think interesting things happen when we’re able to do small pulsations in the middle of those two places. You may well have heard of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who died recently, who talked about flow states, these ideal states of high focus and creativity.

But sometimes I think that’s setting our target a bit high. I don’t often experience those states, but perhaps, sort of one step down from that is a more, is kind of like a flow state in working clothes, which is this ability to be able to move a little between tensing and easing to find flex.

And in fact, that’s an interesting sense of the word play. We tend to think of play as being playful, playful games and activities, which is of course is fine.

There’s that other sense of the word play, the way that a mechanic would find the play in a nut and bolt that have got too tight, it’s the little bit of wiggle room and that ability to move between tense and ease. And I think that’s a great skill for facilitators.

Facilitation is often taken to mean making things easy, but I think that’s not a very helpful way of thinking about it because often, we’re working with groups that are doing very difficult things and we don’t want to pretend to them that it’s easy, we want to respect the difficulty.

So I like to think of facilitation as bringing a sense of ease to difficult things. So perhaps noticing a kind of tension, literally in our bodies or perhaps in the atmosphere in the room as we face something difficult and not getting stuck in, getting more tense and not giving up but just seeing, where’s the wiggle room here? Where’s the little bit of playfulness that I can find in a difficult situation?

Photo by CALIN STAN on Unsplash


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