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Facilitator Toolbox - Verbal tools
When facilitating a group discussion in a meeting you can use several simple verbal tools to engage participants and make sure everyone is involved.
What is in your facilitator toolbox?
- Probing is used to determine the mood or general opinion of the group about a certain topic or point in the discussion. Just asking for a “thumbs up-thumbs down” survey can be enough to get an impression of the general opinion of the group.
- Paraphrasing means to express the same content that was just stated before but in your own words in order to check that both you and the others have the same understanding.
- Redirecting a question to the group help get participants more involved in the discussion. In addition, it also encourages group reflection. Returning a question to the person who asked it or to the group means the facilitator does not take all the responsibility for answering questions or resolving problems.
- Bridging and referring back helps the group to follow the discussion and to connect ideas by recalling earlier discussions or ideas.
- Accept/Legitimize/Deal with or defer. A positive method for dealing with difficult people or situations that might get a meeting off track. Accept the idea without agreeing or disagreeing. Legitimize it by writing it on the “group memory.” Then, decide as a group if the issue/idea is more appropriately dealt with here or deferred to another time. Record ideas or issues that are deferred and agree on when they will be addressed.
- Synthesize. Shape fragments into a whole, work through the stream of consciousness found in group discussions.
- Shift Perspectives if a group gets stuck at some point in the discussion try to shift the perspective and look at the problem from a different angle.
- Summarizing. Repetition promotes understanding and summarizing what has been discussed so far will help the group build upon the conclusions they have already made.
- Giving positive reinforcement. It is important to encourage people, especially those who are less assertive, to state their opinions. When someone brings up a good point, say so, thus showing their participation is appreciated and later they will feel confident enough again to bring up another idea.
- Including quieter members. Encourage less talkative members to contribute to the discussion. Ask directly for their opinions and If they have any questions. Keep in mind that people do have different thinking styles and may not feel comfortable if they are encouraged too much.
- Ask/Say what’s going on and Regain Focus. Naming something that isn’t working and getting it out in the open so the group can deal with it. Making sure everyone is working on the same content, using the same process, at the same time.