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For meeting participants to own the solution, they must also own the problem. Therefore, to be more effective as a facilitator, drop the first person singular terms “I” and “me”. Additionally, stop offering solutions to ‘their’ problem, and quit judging and evaluating their contributions. Instead, challenge them to make their thinking clearer.

1. Hence, with interactive listening, ask open questions to start information flow:

Interactive Listening

Interactive Listening

    • “Tell us more about . . .”
    • “Give us a better description about . . .”

2. Body language interactive listening remains sensitive to:

    • Direct eye contact
    • Involved posture:
      • lean forward
      • don’t fold arms
      • avoid cold shoulder
    • Use pleasant, encouraging facial expression.
    • Use skeptical expressions only to gain clarification, but beware: they can impede information flow.
    • Smile

3. Instead use neutral encouragement:

    • “Hmmmm”
    • “Interesting”
    • “Really?”
    • “No kidding?”
    • “Wow”
    • “OK

4. Interactive listening permits challenge with add-on comments, comparisons, analogies:

    • “What makes that different than the (XYZ deal)?”
    • “Sounds like trying to hold off the flood by putting your finger in the dike . . .”

5. Stress clarification questions:

    • “Explain more about . . .”
    • “Restate that as if you were speaking to your grandmother.”
    • “Do you mean (insert reflective comment)?”
    • “What is different between (this) and (that)?”
    • “What type of impact . . .?”
    • “Huh?”

6. Conclude comments and conversation with a summary:

    • At the end of the conversation, summarize the important points and ask for confirmation that you understood the other party, not that you necessarily agreed with everything said.
    • “We apparently have agreed on the following course of action . . .”
    • “Your position on the matter was . . .”

7. Therefore, don’t debate the issue:

    • Listen intently while the other person talks. Focus on understanding the other person’s point of view so that you can provide thorough reflection.

8. Rather, restate and ask for confirmation:

    • “Let’s ensure that we understand that correctly. You said that…”

9. Hence, silence or minimal speaking during interactive listening:

    • Silence lasting three to five seconds will encourage the participant to say more.
    • Defer to other participants
    • Practice saying “Go ahead, continue.”
    • Avoid interrupting:
      • Therefore, interrupt only to ask clarification questions or to increase momentum through a quick comment.
      • Don’t change the subject without announcing your intention to do so.

10. Most importantly, take notes:

    • Note taking usually honors the speaker and encourages information flow.
    • Take notes, not dictation; stay in the conversation; maintain eye contact.
    • Note taking may impede information flow however, and some speakers may not
 want a written record of their comments on sensitive issues.


Don’t ruin your career or reputation with bad meetings. Register for a class or forward this to someone who should. Taught by world-class instructors, MG RUSH  professional facilitation curriculum focuses on practice. Each student thoroughly practices and rehearses tools, methods, and approaches throughout the week. While some call this immersion, we call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.

Our courses also provide an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, and 40 CDUs from IIBA, as well as 3.2 CEUs for other professions. (See individual class descriptions for details.)

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Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Facilitation Best Practices blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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