Tips for Group Facilitators

This issue’s suggestion is around the use of questions. There are many things to think about when facilitating a group and one of them is how and when we use questions¹. The way we use questions can make a positive difference and here are a few suggestions.

  1. One question at a time: Too many questions at once can be off-putting. Think of asking one question at a time and give the group member lots of time to answer. Also, take care to make sure you are heard—sometimes the reason a question isn’t answered is due to hearing challenges.
  2. Explore, don’t advise: No one likes to be told what to do. We believe that each of us possess wisdom and, given a safe and trusting environment, have an innate ability to sort out what we need. Our role as a facilitator is to keep questions to a minimum and encourage group members to sort things out at their own pace. If they say they don’t know what to do, try this:
    a) Ask them: “I’m wondering, if you knew what to do, what would it be? Just pretend for a moment that you know…”
    b) Invite the rest of the group to offer suggestions or ideas of things that worked for them in similar situations.
    c) Use what I call the ‘three magic words’. Use these three words often and especially when you are stuck and don’t know what to say: “Tell me more”.
  3. Use open-ended questions: Answers to closed questions are often ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and although closed questions are helpful to gather information, they don’t leave room for further exploration. Open questions invite group members to talk and explore. Good examples of an open question are: “What is that like for you?” or “I’m not sure what you mean – could be give me an example?”
  4. Take care not to use leading questions: some questions imply a bias that you might have (knowingly or unknowingly), and can stop group member from expressing what they feel for fear of criticism. An example would be: “You’re not going to cry, are you?” “You don’t like country music, do you?”

As always, whether you are asking questions as a group facilitator or speaking in general, be aware of your tone of voice and strive to come from an accepting place of non-judgement. That is not always easy to do. Remember to stay present and express kindness and interest, even when you are having trouble understanding. It is more important that someone knows you are listening and caring, than that you are getting it all right.

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