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The pattern of Creative Facilitation

Updated: Aug 27, 2019

I work with people and people tend to follow patterns.


Patterns of behaviour, useful behaviour, and not so useful behaviour. I have been fascinated by patterns ever since I could move about and grab hold of things, plants, animals, insects, marbles, stones, water, wood... I have always wanted to find out what makes that insect do what it does, that stone that shape, that piece of wood smooth and this one rough. When I am working with someone, or a group of someones, I notice what they repeat, how they express themselves, what words crop up often, what words are avoided or difficult. I also notice how they move physically. How do they sit, stand, move their face and their hands when talking, or thinking. I am not looking to predict what anyone person or group will do in any situation, however I am keen to find out what goes on for the people I work with on a deeper level than is initially presented... on an emotional level.

Once we both understand what emotions and feelings we associate with which behaviours, then we can be honest about what we want to do... and I like working with people who are keen to find out what they want to do and how they can do that with meaning and purpose.

There all sorts of books and manuals that suggest that if we all follow this plan or that set of actions... then we get a certain result... am not so sure about that.


My way of working depends upon the person I am working with, I follow them and aim to join them on their journey... I am not aiming to lead them on mine.


There some core principles that are at the base of how I work, these are often in the form of assumptions. I assume that every human wants to be better, in what ever way they interpret that.

We all want to feel ok with ourselves, it feels comfortable to be ok with myself... and one of my core principles is that we are comfort seeking animals.


I am aware that over the last couple of decades there has been a big coaching movement based upon moving beyond our comfort zone.

When on a training day for facilitators our group of trainees was asked how we feel about being in our comfort zone... I dreamed off and jotted down lots of positive (for me) words around being cosy, wine, warm, sofa, relaxed, at home, chilled, with friends, confident... my dream was broken when I noticed others were feeding back negative words, like, bored, restless, lethargic, unsatisfied... I realised that this learning session was about doing things that may make us feel scared or challenged and that I had got hold of the wrong angle on this. It did help me recognise that I am not so keen on this "jump in at the deep end" sort of coaching.

I do my best work when I feel that I am doing something that I am comfortable with.

I may not always find every thing easy and sometimes I may challenge myself to do something that is scary or difficult... but I am more likely to do that difficult thing well when I feel I am confident in myself and those others around me who support me.


My pattern of work aims to help create a community where we can all feel comfortable most of the time.


I like working with others who have worked hard to master the techniques they need to express themselves through what they contribute to their community, and can then create this contribution without feeling uncomfortable.


This pattern of working has developed from observing people I have known, or known of, who are really good at what they do and appear to do it in a relaxed and confident way.

I am drawn to people who are relaxed and confident and really good at what they do.

Once I notice them I will ask them; "How did you get to be like this?" Many of the people I have worked with in my life were really good at what they did and thankfully really good at sharing their skills with me. I call this pattern of finding caring, sharing, useful others, fortuitously bumping into people I want to hang out with. So the patterns in my work are based around assuming that we all want to do well in what we do... we all want to contribute something useful and meaningful to our community... this gives us pleasure and meaning... and a life without pleasure and meaning sounds awful to me. Another assumption is that when I have worked with people who are really good at something, have learned from them and practiced for many hours or years... I get to be good at doing that thing... and when I am really good at doing something, for myself and for others... it gives me pleasure and meaning in my life. When I started to read about psychology I recognised that I am not the only person who feels like this. People like Carl Rogers and Mary Ainsworth make similar assumptions... that people want to become full... aware... complete... relaxed... comfortable with themselves and with others.

So I chose to read as much of their written work as possible and then fortuitously bumped into people who had become really good at putting these ideas into practice and were cool with sharing how they do this with me. I realise I am doing this thing again... it is a pattern... I start out aiming to explain how I work and what it is like taking part in that work... then I get to around this point in my writing and recognise that I cannot explain how I work or what I do or what you might expect... because my work is driven by the needs of those I am working with... and every one or every group I work with is unique, have unique needs and skills. As you may know... or not... I am a Taoist... when people ask what that means I am likely to say "I don't know, it is a feeling, a way of being." Not much help as a description. The big text in Taoism is The Tao Te Ching. A book of 81 very short chapters or pieces... the first piece says;


Tao k'o tao fei ch'ang tao... or in the nearest English translation... Tao called tao is not tao.


Some things cannot be explained in words. They can be felt, they can be demonstrated, they can be useful... but they cannot be described usefully in words. This feels like a good place to stop writing and to sit quietly and see where my mind goes. Thanks for joining me on this wee journey into patterns.




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