The Guiding Beliefs and Assumptions of Effective Facilitation
Most of us go about our daily work, whatever might be, without reflecting upon beliefs,
values, and assumptions, which underlie our actions.
We move through the world with
an internalized set of beliefs and yet, we act upon them without much thought. As
facilitators, it is important to realize that often the same is true of our facilitative
interactions with groups; that is, we rarely make explicit or consider in any depth, the
beliefs, assumptions, and presuppositions that influence the group’s or our own behavior.
Many of us learned facilitation through models, by watching, working with or reading
about our mentors—the wise and seasoned individuals who acted as our role models.
Thus, we do the things our mentors taught us to do without much questioning why they
did (and we do) it in a particular way.
How often before we enter a pre-meeting session,
a critical meeting interaction, or a training effort, do we ask ourselves,” What are the
underlying beliefs that are guiding our facilitative actions? Or “What are the group’s
implicit presuppositions and beliefs about their outcomes, relationships, etc?”
There seems to be little question that beliefs are powerful.
They are the invisible factors
that guide and direct our research, theory building, our practice and our lives!
the “behind the scenes” forces that influence our verbal and non-verbal behavior as
facilitators. And those behaviors in turn impact the beliefs and perceptions and the
behaviors of those we “facilitate”.
Thus, the combination of these facilitator and
individual beliefs and behaviors jointly influence the overall group’s behavior which
directly affects the quality and success of the group’s outcomes.
Indeed, this is a
powerful interaction, and yet our beliefs (presuppositions, assumptions, criteria) are
rarely considered a priori and explicitly by us as practitioners, researchers, and, more
importantly, as human beings.
By its nature, facilitation, like any human interaction, is a belief and value-based process.
Therefore, as a facilitator it is important to be aware of our own beliefs and to be able to
recognize and utilize the power of other’s beliefs, as well.
The listing and description of
guiding beliefs and assumptions that follows in this paper is our attempt to make explicit
our underlying beliefs about people (human behavior), communication, and change. They
are our conceptual foundation for thinking about facilitation and thus direct our attention
and interactions as facilitators. We present them here for your consideration as a catalyst
for you to examine your own beliefs about people, human behavior, communication and
change and the implications of such beliefs on facilitating effective group interactions.
The list below describes the most important beliefs and assumptions that we, in our