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Don’t Fear Tough Facilitation

Man pointing angrily

With Amanda Newbery, Alice Sherring and Shoshanna Berry-Porter, Articulous.

Learn how to facilitate the tough stuff with our specialised course.

Imagine this:

You’re in the middle of a facilitation, and an angry person leaps up, face red, voice raised, and screams “This is rubbish! You lot aren’t listening! I’m sick of it!”

The project manager shakes their head and mouths, “Do something. Now.”

Your perfectly crafted engagement plan and key messages are useless.

It’s just you, your wits and a trickle-turned-stream of sweat running down your spine.

You’re standing there, frozen and speechless. Everyone who’s not yelling at you is watching you, expecting you to take control.

So what do you do?

How do you facilitate the tough stuff?

What is tough facilitation?

Tough facilitation is where you have the sort of session that’s either off the rails, full of strong emotions, or where it feels impossible to get a resolution. Where there’s polarisation, highly charged politics, or high conflict.

The top 5 facilitation scenarios most likely to be described as tough by participants in the Articulous course, Facilitating the Tough Stuff, delivered in partnership with IAP2 Australasia during 2021 and 2022 are:

  1. Situations with strong emotions (mostly anger or grief)
  2. Losing control of the agenda or the room
  3. Being heckled or abused and not knowing how to respond
  4. Being in control of your emotional responses
  5. Personal safety

Whether it’s a community forum of 100 or a focus group of 5, when the going gets tough it’s up to you, as facilitator, to keep cool, keep calm, and keep in control.

By ensuring you have the right skills and mechanisms in place, there’s nothing to fear from tough facilitation.

Facilitating the Tough Stuff

Our specialised course builds on entry-level facilitation knowledge to stretch participants by immersing them in a range of tough facilitation scenarios. The program unpacks the facilitation skills necessary to successfully facilitate with challenging groups, dynamics and increasing levels of complexity.

Facilitating the Tough Stuff relies on you, the facilitator, to focus on three things:

1. Self-awareness:

  • Knowing yourself
  • Understanding your facilitation style
  • Reflecting on your facilitation fears

2. Self-management 

  • Working with emotion and trauma
  • Flexibility and improvisation
  • Self-assurance

3. Facilitation skills

  • A toolkit of skills, language, and actions you can use because you’ve already practiced them
Who should do this course?

Facilitating the Tough Stuff is aimed at engagers looking to refine and enhance their facilitation knowledge, to develop or sharpen their skills in Facilitation.

From early career professionals to experienced specialists, Facilitating the Tough Stuff gives you the opportunity to reflect upon and understand your own natural facilitation style. You will explore ways to respond to challenging emotions such as, anger, trauma and fear while determining ways to move groups to solutions finding.

It’s a great way to up-skill and build your confidence in tough situations.

Amanda Newbery

Amanda Newbery

Alice Sherring headshot

Alice Sherring