Page 37 - Student Organizations Manual

Avoid arguments over technicalities. Do not permit members to profess a particu-
lar point of view just for the sake of argument. If the matter is worth discussion to
begin with, that means there are already differences of opinion.
At the beginning of the discussion, share with the group members a rough outline
of the process so they will feel that they knowwhere they are going in terms of
process rather than outcome. Present questions that may be explored rather than
answers that must be attained.
Realize that the responsibility to initiate discussion lies with the facilitator.
Keep your eyes open to nonverbal cues.
Avoid tangles over words and definitions. Focus on overall messages rather than
the individual terms used to express it.
Draw out shy people with friendly encouragement.
Give brief statements, not speeches. You want to stimulate a rapid give—and—
take of information so everyone has an opportunity to contribute. You don’t need
to comment on every statement made by group members.
Summarize often to keep members focused on the topic. Your role is to orient and
guide. When the group comes to a decision about an issue, make it clear that not
more discussion is needed on that point.
Recognize that being a leader does not make you a “gifted” individual who knows
all the answers. Your leadership is a service to the group—but the emphasis is on
the group. Handle business by general consent.
Work for consensus rather than for majority control.
Trust the group. No one person is superior to the rest. The experience of all is
richer than the experience of any one member. Work for consensus rather than
majority control.
The phrases below can help a meeting facilitator promote clear communication and
ensure the purpose of the meeting is accomplished.
Let’s check that out with the rest of the group
Do you see it differently?
How do you see the problems?
Sounds like that’s a problemwe ought to address.
I still don’t have a handle on the real problem. What is it?
What would you like to be doing?
Oh, your perception is…(describe) That’s how you see the problem.
Sounds like this is a real problem.
Looks like you’re really concerned abut this issue.
Feels like we’re wasting valuable time. What would be a better use of our time?
Sounds like you’re all worn out.
What are we doing right now?
Say a little more about that.
What’s the purpose of the presentations?
Hold on. I think we’re talking about two problems, problem ____and prob-
lem____. I think they are both important, but let’s talk about them one at a time.
It’s a big agenda today. Do you want to get through the whole agenda (yes) Okay, if
I push too hard, let me know.
What do you want to have happen?
Wait a second. We’re jumping all around. We’re brainstorming, discussing, clarify-
ing, and debating. Let’s stay in one phase at a time.
That’s an important consideration. Let’s get that down. I’d like to come back to that
after we finish the subject we’re on. Okay?
As leaders, we sometimes find ourselves working with a group whose members just
don’t interact well. It is helpful to pause and analyze what is happening. Is the prob-
lem one particular member? Two? More? The following are suggestions for dealing
with a member who is keeping the group from being productive.
If a groupmember…
Talks Endlessly and doesn’t allow others to participate.
Thank her or him for the input and suggest getting the views of others
in the group. Politely point out that others need an opportunity to participate.
If a groupmember…
Must always present the negative side of an issue.
Ask for group reactions to the expressed views or alternate solutions to
the problem.
If a groupmember…
Talks about all subjects, whether whey are pertinent or not.
Call attentions to the issue at hand, or suggest that because time is lim-
ited, you’ll discuss the other issues later. In a nonjudgmental way, recommend getting
back to the subject at hand.
If a groupmember…
Gets lost as he or she is trying to make a point
In a friendly manner, point out the digression. Draw attention to the dis-
cussion objectives and remind everyone that time is limited.
If a groupmember…
Distracts others by engaging in side conversations
Call on the talkers by name and either ask an easy question or restate
the last opinion expressed by the group and ask their opinions. Try not to embarrass
If a groupmember…
Represents another group
Ask who she or he is speaking for and how your group can benefit from
his or her participation in the discussion.
If a groupmember…
Acts superior to the group
Thank the person for his or her contributions and ask for other views on
the issue.
If a groupmember…
States messages that are judgmental
Thank the member for his or her point of view, then ask the group for
other sides of the issue that should be considered.
If a groupmember…
Is bored or indifferent
Try to draw him or her into the discussion by listing alternate solutions
and asking for his or her opinion. Ask the person to lead a discussion.
If a groupmember…
Is timid or insecure
Draw out the person next to her/him, then ask her/his opinion of the
view expressed.
At the start of the meeting, know the specific results you want to achieve by the end
of the meeting. Either get together to plan the agenda, assign a person to phone
around and then write the agenda, or develop one on the spot at the start of the
Separate the power (authority) and content (subject matter) from the process (how the
meeting proceeds). As a meeting leader, either choose to facilitate yourself or ask a
group member to do so.