Jarring, facilitation and positivity

Some months back, I was munching and lunching with Doug Shaw and we were talking about a good number of things. In particular we ambled on talking about helping groups with positive actions and positive behaviours who may not be ready for it.

Facilitation, when done well, is by essence a positive experience. It normally helps a group move forward and progress their thinking. Facilitators are mindful of energy levels, positive interactions, feedback, techniques and more besides. All this fits into the kitbag of what the facilitator is capable of doing and how they work with a group to reach an agreed outcome.

One of the important tenets of positive psychology is accepting that sometimes bad things happen. That definition of bad is as broad as it needs to be. It includes personal slights, significant events, workplace problems, global catastrophes, warring countries, relationship troubles and even mental illness. What’s not important is defining ‘bad’ in this context. What’s important is recognising that something is not right.

I’ve said before, and will say again that positive thinking in this type of instance is unhelpful. You can’t just positively think you’re way out of feeling like something is jarring with you. It’s important to recognise what that jarring is, address it and find a way to move forward once you have acted on making it better. And sometimes, that’s the piece we can get stuck with.

It happens in organisations too. A team that is not a team because they’re not working together, won’t be an effective team unless they accept one another. It doesn’t matter if they haven’t normed or stormed or whatever, or if they haven’t identified who’s completely finishing and who’s off planting. What matters is if they have a basic work ethic and trust with one another. If they can’t do those essentials with team members, then they won’t be able to positively work together.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that focusing on a positive outcome without the team being ready for it could do more harm than good. Why? Because they’ll only be cynical about the tasks or activities they’re being asked to carry out, and when they’re back in the workplace nothing will change for them. I remember facilitating a team event with a team who were asked to take part in a games based activity. It was meant to be a pat on the back for them and a recognition of their hard work. They did what they were asked to, and when they were back in the workplace, went back to all their negative behaviours. That happened because, with hindsight, we didn’t address what was the reality for them. It didn’t matter that they were being treated to a day out, they needed to address their team issues.

The clear outcome from dealing with bad things is that we know we can overcome them. Sometimes they seem insurmountable, but often it’s an attitudinal blockage as opposed to anything else.

Personally, too, we experience jarring of all sorts. In most cases we can brush things off, or accept them because of the personal situations we may be faced with. When that jarring, though, means we are stuck, that’s when we need to address it and find a way to act on it.

In this context, it can be hard to make that happen if we are unaware of what actually needs to be done. A coach, a trusted friend / other or a trained counsellor can help in these instances. When people enter into long term discussions focused on one issue or another, those are important moments to help progress happen. I believe it’s important to encourage positive behaviours where possible too. Supporting people to engage with positive actions can be really hard.

At work, this could be talking to your manager about your growing workload from them. It could be about finding ways to better manage your constant urgent and important actions. It could be finding better ways to manage your projects. It could be dealing with a difficult colleague. It could be going for that promotion.

It’s hard to do all of the above. That’s why us L&Ders exist. We facilitate. We make the hard easy. We make the hard better. We make the hard more manageable. We make the hard easier to understand.

Your takeaway? Accept that sometimes things jar. When you address it and find a way to act on it, you allow yourself the space to act positively for your own wellbeing.


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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

2 thoughts on “Jarring, facilitation and positivity”

  1. Great piece – thank you! I’m will share with my facilitator colleagues as as an encouraging reminder. We do do this!
    The process of change starts with acceptance and full understanding (empathy) of the currently reality. When I hear positive psych criticised it’s because people mistakenly think the approaches are problem avoidance – not true, and impossible to do effectively if this above mentioned starting point isn’t genuine.

  2. I remember that conversation well – it was great fun and useful learning. I’m pleased you have written this piece – it serves as a great reminder of a very important point. That old joke – one guy asks another ‘How do I get to {Croydon}? Other guy says, ‘I wouldn’t start from here’. Understanding your departure point – the mood, tone and culture, before you decide on a direction of travel. That matters.

    Munch on dude.

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