Perhaps you’re wondering: what’s the connection between facilitation, rapt attention, and love?
Why am I drawn to facilitation? I’ve often heard an uneasy inner voice that wonders if it’s about a desire or need for control and/or power. And yet I know through experience that when I am facilitating well, I have influence but no real control or power.
Then I read this:
“Freud said that psychoanalysis is a ‘cure through love,’ and I think that is essentially correct. The love is conveyed not so much in the content as in the form: the rapt attention of someone who cares enough to interrogate you. The love stows away in the conversation.” —Psychotherapist and writer Gary Greenberg, interviewed in “Who Are You Calling Crazy?”, The Sun, July 2016
Facilitation is not psychotherapy (though sometimes it may have similar results.) But they both have something in common when performed with skill: the gift of listening closely. And that gift of rapt attention is given out of love—not of the content but through the form.
Though I sometimes want to be in (illusory) control, I am drawn to facilitation out of love.
Why are you drawn (if, indeed, you are) to facilitation?
It’s usually nice to be noticed. But when the attention is coming from blog content spammers, you may feel a little differently. The rapid growth of pageviews of this blog (on track for ~4.5M views in 2014) has coincided with an ever-increasing volume of comment spam, those irritating blog comments that promise you $79/hour working from home!, Dior fashions at low prices!, and the best lawyer in Podunk!
Currently I’m receiving over 250 comments like these a day, so I’m happy to pay Akismet $60/year for their Pro Blogger service that almost perfectly throws them into a spam folder. I say “almost perfectly”, because Akismet doesn’t handle a rarer form of comment spam, trackback spam. Trackback spam add links to your content onto a page spammers want people to visit. Trackbacks can be useful to see who is linking to your content, so I don’t want to ignore every trackback link. Unfortunately this means that you have to look at every trackback and manually move spam comments to the spam queue, an irritating multi-step procedure in WordPress. I started seeing increasing quantities of trackback spam over the last few months, so I’ve added a plugin Simple Trackback Validation with Topsy Blocker that seems to be doing a good job automatically moving trackback spam to the spam queue.
One more observation. Bloggers like me have to spend time and money keeping this crud off their posts. But there’s another victim of these sleazy attempts to plaster low-quality SEO slime over the internet. I notice lots of spam links to small obscure businesses. I wonder how many of them are being fleeced by jerks who promise to increase traffic to their website. And the business owners never know that the fleecer is spraying comment spam to make those stats rise.
I love Sparrow’s aphorisms, but this one especially snagged my heart. It speaks of the space I inhabit when I facilitate effectively—becoming a creator of process that works for others and is not about me. Photo attribution: Flickr user hjiang196
From attending to attention
These days, when someone decides to attend an event we have organized we should be grateful. We live in a world with a myriad of viable options for spending our time and attention.
To pick our event from all of these possible choices is an honor.
But often we squander the gift of attention we have been given. In return we offer a passive experience of listening to a few people speaking for a long period of time.
This is a mistake.
Our brains and bodies are not equipped to maintain full attention to any speaker for more than a few minutes. The inevitable happens, and people tune out. Their attention on what is being presented becomes fragmented and weak. They are no where.
Presence and presents
Yet we know how to increase attention. Here are a few ways:
Ban uninterrupted talking by any one person for more than a few minutes.
Supply frequent, continual opportunities for every attendee to participate and contribute.
Use participant-driven learning formats so that attendees get to learn what they want to learn.
Don’t let anyone sit still for more than twenty minutes.
These are presents of presence for the people at our events.
They guide our attendees out of the routine of attending, and gift them back into attention.
They move our attendees from no where to now here.