How To Use Non-Verbal Communication to Become a Master Facilitator
How To Use Non-Verbal Communication to Become a Master Facilitator
Being the center of attention is nerve racking – and for good reason.
All eyes will be on you.
As the leader of the discussion you’ll feel this from the very start.
But you don’t have to feel uneasy.
What if I told you being a facilitator could be much easier? That with a few simple tips you could be more relaxed, more confident, and more effective.
I’ve used these techniques for over a decade – they are so easy. How was I able to do it?
The Eye of The Storm Technique. It’s a highly effective non-verbal or body language technique that can be used when leading discussions. Today I’m going to show you exactly how I do it, step-by-step.
Why is Non-Verbal Communication Important?
The Body is More Honest.
Most non-verbal behavior is unconscious and a real-time reaction to what is perceived by the mind.
Your pupils dilate when you see something you like without a conscious decision to do so.
You gesture with your hands when you speak without thinking about it. Because non-verbal behavior tends to be so automatic, it’s much harder to consciously control than words, but not for an experienced Facilitator.
An experienced Facilitator communicates almost exclusively through non-verbal behavior and you’ll learn how to do this.
The Body Communicates Much More Information.
We’ve probably all had the experience of texting someone and experiencing some sort of miscommunication, sometimes small, sometimes not so small.
Why is this?
Studies have shown that up to 93% of communication is non-verbal. In face-to-face interaction, we use our entire body to have our messages understood, our arms, our feet, eye contact, tone of voice and the list goes on.
When you remove all that, such as in a text message, all you have our words. People can’t read the emotion behind your message, jokes don’t land, deception can’t easily be detected. This is partly why so many people are starting to use emojis, to put back what is taken away when you lose non-verbal communication 🙂
So, what now?
I hope you have more appreciation for how powerful non-verbal behavior is in human interaction. Now you are going to learn how powerful it is in small groups and what you as a Facilitator can accomplish with a better understanding of what is not being said.
As a Facilitator, one of the most important uses of your non-verbal behavior is to…
”The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said.”
Be Invisible – Use The Eye of The Storm Technique
You are the authority figure in your small group. People will naturally direct their verbal and nonverbal communication to you.
You don’t want this, you want the group having their own conversation with minimal intervention from you.
In the end, it’s not really your group in the first place.
Think of the conversation as a healthy storm – ideas and opinions flying this way and that way. Participants becoming excited and calm, some moments of disagreement or agreement. You want that movement to happen, that twisting of ideas throughout the group. To do that you have to serve the participants by taking yourself out of the main conversation, you have to stay in the eye of the storm.
Doing this is easy, you just have to eliminate a few normal small group nonverbal behaviors and people will literally forget you’re there, I’ve seen this countless times and it’s a great demonstration of how powerful non-verbal communication can be.
First, as hard as it might be at first – don’t reciprocate eye contact with other group members when they are talking.
As mentioned earlier group members will naturally direct their non-verbals to you, like eye contact. If you look everyone in the eye they will speak to you and look for your approval. This creates a bad situation because the focus of the storm will completely change directions and all thoughts will be directed at you, the Facilitator.
It’s much better to make very little eye contact. To do this simply look down and towards the center of the group.
99% of the time participants will simply look for someone else to look at while they communicate – This is what you want!
While not making eye contact handles most of you being invisible to the group, it’s also important to sit in a neutral and open position.
Feet on the floor, hands on your thighs, in a comfortable position, with your head slightly down and to the center.
Do not cross your legs, arms, or lead or turn toward one direction.
You might notice that people speak in your direction or “at” you more or less. At first you might feel uncomfortable and they might feel uncomfortable as well, but remember you must sit in the Eye of the Storm.
When people feel uncomfortable there is an automatic response to find a new audience. People HATE feeling uncomfortable, so much so, that in this situation, they simply forget that you’re there rather than an authority figure violating social norms.
Use Body Language to Guide the Conversation
Understanding non-verbal behavior allows you to control the verbal communication of the group.
As a Facilitator, you will use this control to let silent voices be heard, solicit disagreement in the group and stop particular kinds of people from taking over the discussion.
Rapport, both among the group and individual group members, is what determines how engaged in the discussion someone might be. Rapport is both identified and established through mirroring nonverbal cues. This could mean many things, matching someone’s posture, direction their body is oriented to, or mimicking their hand gestures. As a facilitator, you’re mainly looking to identify rapport among the group, not create it between the group and you, but when you do need to exert control over the conversation, rapport is good to have.
There are two main reasons when you want to exert control over the conversation,
- No one is talking
- A few people are talking too much
In these cases, you must balance the conversation by manipulating rapport.
Similar to the effect that lack of eye contact can have, where and who you direct your eye contact can also have a powerful effect on control of the conversation.
For example, maybe the group has someone who is talking a little too much and others not enough. A good way to kill two birds with one stone is to respond to the louder voice but direct your eye contact towards quieter one. The quieter person will naturally feel obligated to say something and the louder person will feel obligated to let them speak. This is an easy technique that works because of complex group dynamics and social norms that, you’ll get better and better at navigating over time.
In this example, everyone is assuming that many things in life can communicate, that communication is ubiquitous. And so after following this path and allowing the discussion to take place, you bring in the Epiphany Question…
However, the effect is achieved, group members talk to each other, rather than at you.
They take ownership of the conversation and your goal is achieved.
You will be amazed at the effect you see on the group. You will be invisible in plain sight – in the Eye of The Storm and people will tell you that. You will see people ask questions, rather than give opinions, perhaps, the best definition of success for any small group discussion.
You will teach people how to listen and to think. Closed minds will be opened, you will see this countless time, but it will always have an impact. All of this achieved, almost without saying a word if you’re doing your job as Facilitator.
So get out there, stop paying so much attention to the words you here and more to what every – BODY is saying.
Now You Try It
Now that you have learned the principles of The Eye of the Storm Technique go out and use it!
Unlike other methodsYou don’t have to feel nervous or be the center of attention, you don’t even have to prepare beforehand if you use The Epiphany Question Method – that’s the perfect combo.
Ready to try it?
I would love to hear if you’ve found success when using it!
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