Small Business Development Center

Building Your Facilitation Skills

Building Your Facilitation Skills


Authored by: Haley Halverson

How to have (better) hard conversations...

You know how they say “kids say the darndest things?” I think adults experience this amongst each other, too; but often it has a more contentious reaction than funny. Whether a conversation with a friend or family member, a work discussion with a colleague or a staff meeting, we’ve probably all been in those conversations that catch us off guard. For such scenarios, it’s beneficial to practice facilitation skills.

This year, I have been blessed to partake in a series of facilitation trainings and events through the WWU SBDC Leadership Series, WWU Social Justice and Equity Committee, and Embody Love Movement. These events target topics that are (often) difficult and feel vulnerable to discuss. Regardless of topic, facilitation skills are a professional and personal asset when hard conversations arise and lend an opportunity for learning and growth.

Why is facilitation important to business, community, relationships, etc.?

  1. Enriches understanding yourself, your experiences, narratives, and ideas
  2. Fosters curiosity about others, their experiences, narratives, and ideas
  3. Helps acquire a “bigger picture” perspective
  4. Promotes inclusion and collective wisdom
  5. Enhances collaboration and innovation

The role of the facilitator is NOT to have all the answers or a preconceived end product. In fact, there may be no tangible result at all.

The role of the facilitator is to guide conversations (one-on-one or in groups, i.e. staff meetings) that illuminate what is currently occurring and lead toward new possibilities.

Some of my favorite facilitator toolkit tricks:

  1. Take a breath 
  2. Do some self-discovery work like leadership mind maps; “Can’t lead where you won’t go.”
  3. Establish rapport
    • Create group agreements
    • Engage with honesty, humility and curiosity
  4. Ask an individual:
    • Really? I never thought about it like that. Can you tell me more?
  5. Include and ask the group:
    • Does anyone else share that experience/feeling?

Hard conversations are tough but vital to our relationships, communities, workplaces, and other social spaces.

If you are interested in learning more, check out local facilitator opportunities and resources through the following: WWU Social Justice and Equity Committee, the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center, or a coach like Laura and Sara

Authored by: Haley Halverson