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As an effective facilitator, stop saying I

For some, it is quite natural to substitute the plural “we” or “us”.  However, for others, it remains a significant challenge. Therefore, if you find it is a challenge, consider this opportunity as the number one change you can make to become a more effective facilitator. Stop saying I.

We have witnessed many people using the word “I” over three times in one sentence and over one dozen times in one minute.

For instance, here are examples across numerous self-directed comments:

  • “I am going to . . .”
  • “I believe . . .”
  • “I can agree . . .”
  • “I can see it both ways . . .”
  • “I expect . . . ”
  • “I got it.”
  • “I like it . . .”
  • “I like that one . . .”
  • “I need . . .”
  • “I need your input . . .”
  • “I propose . . .”
  • “I see . . .”
  • “I see nodding . . .”
  • “I think . . .”
  • “I think we have . . .”
  • “I want . . .”
  • “I would like . . .”
  • “I’d like you to help me . . .”
  • “I’ll talk about . . .”
  • “I’m hearing . . .”
  • “I’m very interested in . . .”
  • “What I would like you to do . . .”
  • “What I’d like to do . . .”
  • “What I’d like to do now is . . .”

Or, using a first person variant such as:

  • “Sounds to me . . .”
  • “My thoughts . . .”
  • “Can you tell me . . .”
  • “Tell me . . .”
  • “Help me . . .”
  • “My meeting . . .”

Our favorites are in bold font (“Help me”) since we are led to believe that the reason for engaging a facilitator is to help us (participants). Simply use integrative rhetoric, substituting the plural “we” or “us” such as “We need . . .” or “We are going to . . .”  The biggest challenge for many is that they remain unconscious as to what they are saying, how many times they are saying “I”, and the negative impact it has on their persona as an effective facilitator.  When a meeting leader frequently uses the word “I”, such as . . .

. . . I believe . . .

. . . I want . . .

. . . I think . . .

. . . I hope . . .

. . . I need . . .

. . . I feel . . .

. . . etc . . . they are directing the focus at them instead of the issue at hand, and most importantly, the meeting deliverable.  Guess who will own the deliverable at the end of such meeting?  They will.

How to Influence Ownership

The Most Effective Facilitators Stop Saying I -- Use Pluralistic Rhetoric

Stop Saying I

To ensure that ownership of meeting output is owned and shared by everyone, and to help you become a more effective facilitator, look at the difference between the following two terms:

  1. Illness
  2. Wellness

The simple (and somewhat humorous, albeit coincidental) difference is contrasting the first person singular to the first person plural. Above all, focus should always be on the issue and the participants, not on the facilitator.

Record yourself sometime, listen to the recording, and count the occurrences of the word “I.”  You may be surprised, and if so, now you can do something about it to become a more effective facilitator.

Finally, stay vigilant also about saying “Thank-you” too often. Optimally, you should probably never say “Thank-you”, but we understand the need for you to be natural as well. However, if you are constantly thanking participants for their contributions, who does it appear the deliverable is built to serve? Therefore, transferring ownership of the meeting output begins with integrative and pluralistic rhetoric. Avoid the colloquial and stay conscious. After all, you should be there to serve them, not the other way around.


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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