Monday, March 26, 2012

Facilitate … like a musical arrangement!

Tempo, tone, dissonance, consonance – how do they connect with facilitation?  Several weeks ago, I had the intense pleasure of listening to a musical therapist, Jennifer Buchanan ( who provided a combined entertainment/education session at a retreat I was facilitating. What a hit! What a moving experience!  Jennifer shared her songs, her passion for music, and the ways that she uses music to improve people’s health and wellness.  We sang along with old favourites, we laughed at her stories about going through her 14 year-old teenage phase, and we wept at moving stories about people who gained hope through music.

As I listened to Jennifer, I thought about the connections of music and facilitation.  Jennifer explained concepts in music like tempo and tone.  Tempo is defined as “the speed at which a musical composition or passage is performed.” I think that a group of individuals in a facilitated conversation has tempo.  Each person has a different pace or speed.  Some take time to reflect upon questions, issues and ideas; others shout out their thoughts immediately.  Like a musical arrangement, each person’s tempo is needed for a full bouquet of sound.

Tone in music, is “a sound with a distinctive quality” or in a conversation, “the way somebody says something as an indicator of what that person is feeling or thinking.”  As a facilitator, I try to encourage each person in a group conversation to contribute their tones to reflect what they are feeling.  They might be happy, anxious, confused, angry, excited, passionate, joyful … all tones are needed to create the full facilitation arrangement.  Yes, we try for harmony; yet often, the most beneficial result comes through the dissonance in the conversation.  In a musical arrangement, dissonance is “ a combination of notes that, when played simultaneously, sounds displeasing and needs to be resolved to a consonance, that is, a combination of musical notes that sound pleasing when played simultaneously.”

In conversations, we as facilitators and participants can encourage the dissonant notes to ensure that all of the information and ideas are included.  Then, we can work towards considering and arranging the notes, or information and ideas, into a wonderful arrangement.

My bog facilitation question is… What “musical” experiences have you had as a facilitator that moved from dissonance to consonance?