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How Do You Handle Story Telling as a Facilitator?

Like the branches of a tree, the mind can end up moving in a thousand directions at once.

This Happens Easily In Inquiry

Especially if the mind does not want to find the truth. Sometimes the desire to be right overpowers the desire to know the truth.

Then the mind takes all kinds of tactics to avoid answering the questions during inquiry. The job of a facilitator is to bring the mind back to the questions where it has a chance of moving beyond its suffering.

Usually, this is easy to spot as a facilitator, and easy to act on. But, for me, there is a balance between bringing someone back to inquiry and being gentle in doing so.

A Facilitator Recently Asked Me About This

“How do you handle the ‘story telling’? How do you react when a person is nearly crying, do you only say, ‘I invite you to go back to the situation?’ Or do you say any more?

“Do you interrupt at the first ‘because,’ or do you let them finish one or two sentences? And when they say, in questions 1 or 2, ‘Yes,’ and then add a sentence explaining their answer, do you say anything after this sentence even if they are quiet now and ready for the next question?”

I Shared My Experience…

For me, story telling is still one of my most difficult challenges as a facilitator. I tend to err on the side of letting them go too long.

However, most of the time I don’t see any problem with giving them a little freedom. The problem comes when I get a serious talker who I have to “talk over” for five or ten seconds before they will back down. That’s a challenge for me. And I’m getting better and better at it as I continue to question my thoughts about it.

Here’s what I normally do that works well for me most of the time. If they get distracted, I simply bring them back to the question we’re working on. I don’t make them wrong. And I don’t say much else, just “How else do you react?”, or “Where do you feel it in your body,” etc.

Especially with people who are familiar with The Work. They don’t need much reminder to come back to the questions. So I don’t make a big deal about it. I just bring them back.”

Also, I Don’t Cut Them Off At Every “Because”

I give my client the benefit of the doubt that he or she is here to do The Work. If they are new, I do bring up that the power of The Work lies in answering the questions, not in giving explanations or stories. If they are experienced, they usually bring themselves back quite quickly. If I notice it happening a lot, I mention it. And if the story goes on for very long, I mention it. But I do it in a gentle way.

I find it counterproductive to be making my client feel wrong. Then they shut down and don’t want to do The Work either. It’s a razor’s edge. I’m always looking for ways that are kind to invite the person back. Often, I just repeat the question, or say, “We were looking for examples for this.”

For me, it’s an important balance between being human and being in The Work. To err on either side is not quite the zone, and I feel it. This process of constant refinement – slipping off one side and then off the other of the razor’s edge – is what keeps me always growing as a facilitator.

I Always Give As Much Space As They Need To Cry

But when I get a sense that they are stuck in their crying (it’s going on and on), or that they are starting to shift out of it, then I gently bring them back to The Work.

Regarding asking for a one word answer only (yes or no) to questions 1 and 2, I don’t always force it. Sometimes it feels like requiring them to give a “yes” or “no” only is taking them out of their work, especially if they are now sitting quietly ready to keep going. Then I just move on to question 3.

But sometimes I make a point of requiring them to say a simple “yes” or “no” with no explanation. I tell them it is an exercise to land on just a yes or no, and I invite them to try it out.

The Bottom Line Is That I Have No Rules

Sometimes I am extra firm as a facilitator. And sometimes I’m quite loose. But in every case, I’m listening to my truth inside as I go. I’m walking the razor’s edge between holding them in The Work and being a kind human being.

And I continue to question my motives for everything I do as a facilitator. That’s how I find my way.

Have a great weekend,

“When someone is facilitating The Work, giving the four questions, he’s receiving at another level what I originally received inside me. If he’s really facilitating from a neutral position, without any motive, then he’s in the place where I am on the other side. It just gains in its freedom. It’s in or out: unlimited.” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change The World

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Todd Smith has been doing The Work of Byron Katie on an almost daily basis since 2007. He is just as excited about this simple process of self-inquiry today as he was when he first came across it. He also enjoys writing about The Work, and training others in the subtleties of this meditative process. Join Todd for The Work 101 online course, private sessions, virtual retreats, and his ongoing Inquiry Circle group.