“Yes, that’s your opinion; but what would be an example?” - deepening SALT by story telling

What I appreciate so much about SALT, is that it fosters deep connections between people. When we suspend judgment and take time to listen deeply, we arrive at a shared understanding. We meet in a field described by Rumi: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there."

As facilitators, how do we allow such a field to emerge? How do we facilitate conversations so that this authentic, vulnerable human connection can build?

Today I ran into a practical booklet (32 p.) that offers very concrete guidelines to facilitate story telling and story listening:

ultimate-guide-to-anecdote-circles.pdf

This might be useful for Knowledge Fairs (also known as Learning Festivals) and other occasions when you want to harvest meaningful stories. 

"What happens is fact, not truth. Truth is what we think about what happens”. This is a quote from the guidebook. Sharing stories helps us make sense of what is going on in our world together. It sets the stage for creativity to emerge, and for generating 'high dreams' of where we would like to be.  We can start sketching scenarios of our desired, aspired future as a community.

"An anecdote circle is less concerned with the group’s opinions and judgements; rather, it seeks to elicit anecdotes and experiences.

The power of Anecdote Circles lies in their ability to move from opinions to experiences. It is important for the facilitator to be mindful of what they are hearing. Is it an opinion?
If so, maybe now is a good time to ask,
“Can you provide an example?”


In traditional group discussions, the facilitator tends to be very active by interpreting
each comment, feeding back to workshop participants what they heard, and describing
the possible next steps. This is how the facilitator keeps a high profile (stressing their authority, like a leader).

When facilitating Anecdote Circles, the facilitator should take a low profile, according to the authors. That can mean reducing eye contact with those sharing their stories, though remaining present and listening. Also, When there is silence, savour it, let it hang. This can help the group to develop its own sense of pace as well as reinforcing that you are here as a guide, not as a leader. 

We aspire to be guides that facilitate when working with SALT, instead of leaders that pretend to have all the answers. This booklet might inspire you to grow your mastery of facilitation skills, so that we can walk together on "fields beyond wrongdoing and rightdoing."

(photo credit Clemy de Rooy, at a Learning Festival with the Dutch Council for Refugees in the Netherlands, November 2018)

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