Practical ideas for facilitating workshops & people development

Posts tagged ‘rapport with groups’

Building rapport … and sheep?

2013-04-20 11.44.12What does shifting a mob of sheep and building rapport with a group have in common? Good question!

I am often asked how to build rapport with a group of people … and have been reflecting on how I do this when facilitating.

From my childhood I shifted sheep on the family farm with my parents and continue to do so with my husband Bill. We were bringing the sheep home for shearing a few months ago … a good time to reflect and think. I was observing the mob, watching for the leaders, preparing for the break away when we got to gate and keeping eye contact with the “rogue” who was waiting for the opportunity to lead the others off in the wrong direction.

Powers of observation built up from childhood – scanning and watching for body language, making eye contact when required to hold attention, looking out for the signs of discomfort, boredom or time for a rest… developed subconsciously over many years. Skills learnt in one situation, which perhaps I have taken for granted, and applied to a different situation with equal success.

Just like the sheep groups of people will often have the rapport leader, the one the others copy and take the lead from. If you have the opportunity to sit an observe a group watch for the matching and mirroring of gestures and body language. The person leading is most often unaware of the role they are playing. When the facilitator is also in rapport with the this person the rapport is developed more quickly with the group. Being in rapport provides the opportunity to really connect with people, enhancing the whole learning process.

To develop the your skills of observation take some time out when catching public transport or take time to sit and watch large groups of people, look for the body language – train you eye to pick up on the signs of frustration, boredom and interest.

When at the front of the room it’s important to be present for the group, silence the “voice in your head” and be there for the group, watch for their signals. After a while this becomes innate and without realising it we are picking up the vibes of the group. If you are co-facilitating check in with each other about what you are each picking up from the group and reflect with each other afterwards about the rapport.

Go beyond merely communicating to ‘connecting’ with people.¬†Jerry Bruckner

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