Blog > Survival guide for introverted facilitators

December 14, 2012

I really enjoyed this article by Sophia DemblingNine signs that you might be an introvert.

Being an introvert is part of who I am, even though I try not to be defined by labels. I guess it works most of the time, because many people are surprised to learn that I’m an introvert.

Here’s a snippet of Sophia’s introduction:

You might think that because I am confident speaking in public, enjoy throwing parties, and can talk to just about anyone, I couldn’t possibly be an introvert.

But I am.

A lot of people have the wrong idea about introversion and confuse it with shyness. But shyness and introversion are not the same. As described by one neuroscientist I spoke to, shyness is behavior: acting fearful in social situations. Introversion is motivation: low drive to participate in social situations. So while shy people might want to socialize but find it intimidating, introverts have the skills but can take or leave socializing.

Also, you can overcome shyness if you want. Introversion seems to be hardwired, and it doesn’t need to be overcome. It’s fine as it is.

Facilitation might seems like an odd choice for an introvert. I have a theory though (completely unproven of course) that introverts make great facilitators. (Extroverts also make great facilitators, and bring different skills). Introvert facilitators are happy not being the centre of attention, like to get out of the way, don’t talk too much, and completely understand other people’s reluctance to participate.

Here’s my three top tips for introverted facilitators:

1. Know thyself

Not all introverts are the same. Understand your own needs, notice what gives you energy and what drains your energy. Would you rather sit by yourself during the breaks and have a quiet coffee? Do you breathe a sigh of relief when the room is emptied of participants? I like being with people, I like socialising, but sometimes I just need some quiet time to myself.

2. Master the disappearing act

Find ways to leave the group without them noticing, or caring, or wondering what you are doing. I will often leave the group when they are in the midst of an activity and I’m definitely not needed. And if I can’t leave the group, I might get them to leave me. One of my favourite ways of doing this is called Walk and Talk where I send everyone out in pairs for a 15-minute walk and talk. The relief when they all leave the room is incredible. And it gives me time to do nothing for a little while.

3. Accept that doing nothing is doing something

Sophia Dembling again:

“After a period with lots of social interaction, quiet solitude is not just pleasant, but crucial. Solitude is a performance-enhancing exercise, in a category, I think, with sleep. If during alone time someone calls and says “whatcha doin’?” I might say, “nothing,” because people don’t understand. But to me, doing nothing is doing something.”

By its very nature, facilitating requires a lot of social interacting. When being paid by a client to facilitate, it can feel like an indulgence to do nothing. Yet it is in these ‘do nothing’ times that we recuperate, it’s when our brains slow down and clarity emerges. And doing nothing is vital to well-being.

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