Groupwork Centre Blog

Giving a hearable message after an ‘incident’

After the heat has passed, there can be growth and even beauty

Do you ever reflect on the effectiveness of your communication?

Looking back on what happened can help you with a way forward. We ask participants of our Advanced Diploma of Group Facilitation to log reflections on their facilitation and collaboration experiences. It’s a simple yet effective way to crystallise your learnings and gain a greater understanding of what makes for a hearable message.

We provide our participants with a series of questions to help them with their reflection. Here’s how one of them handled a challenging situation:

Background: The need for a hearable message

An incident occurred before a meeting where a person in my office was very abrupt and pulled rank regarding booking meeting rooms. I then requested and prepared for a subsequent meeting, where I wished to give them a clear and hearable message.

Preparation – what preparation did you do and how did you feel before the session?
I practiced giving hearable messages (again and again) in the car driving to my sister’s on the weekend, in front of the mirror, and I went over and over it in my head. I was worried – what if… he yelled at me, what if… he defended himself about the technology again and again and what if… he didn’t want to discuss… and most importantly what if I cried.

By the time of the meeting, I was prepared but then … he didn’t show. He came 20 minutes later to my desk and apologised for being caught up in another meeting. He asked if I still wanted to meet with him. I did, so we went into the room that I had booked. I felt prepared.

What happened – and how did you act, feel and respond?

I was pleased that he came to apologise for being late and this really started the conversation. I apologised for taking so long to set up the meeting (when I originally discussed that I wanted to do this on Thursday). I wanted to get myself into a better place and I was not in the right space to do this on the day that it happened.

I started my account of what happened to me on the day, how I felt, how this affected me, and the reasons behind what I was saying. I wondered how we can discuss disagreements when I felt that I had made a very conscious effort to give him the benefit of the doubt and then found that I had the booking and he was not willing to shift at all from his original position.

He was apologetic immediately, citing a few organisational and personal issues that were going on for him.  He also advised me that he had reflected and it was not his normal behaviour – but it was also the fifth time that this had happened to their group, over the series of meeting bookings that they had made

I genuinely felt, during the course of the meeting, that I was coming from my wise self and that he had reflected and had also shifted his position.  I felt a warmth toward him that I would never have conceived prior to this.  I felt at the end that this incident reflected I had made an error in judgement; it was a ‘rope, not a snake.’

I am glad that I spoke with him, not his manager. And I am glad that this process worked – and that I can learn from this experience (in my early 40s) and apply this to all my relationships.

I am starting to think that this person could become a more trusted ally to include in my critical friends circle in the future with the work that I do. Someone to bounce ideas off about potential work in the branch (big turnaround from the weekend).

What were the group dynamics at play?

Communication and participation patterns
We both were able to talk and listen, and didn’t interrupt. I think that we both treated each other with respect. By the end of the discussion, we both had shared what had happened to each other on the day and had a greater appreciation of the whole situation.

Non-verbal dynamics

We sat on right angles away from the table in conversation style. Neither of us had taken a folder and pen so it was a conversation without material distractions.

General atmosphere

Warm and helpful. Apologetic (from both sides). We both disclosed some personal information. We both learnt something.

Interplay of people’s unconscious selves

Adult to adult

What facilitation micro-skills did you use?

Defining purpose, defining role, outlining planning, mapping, setting up space, self-awareness, clarifying and simplifying, summarising, leadership, listening with our hearts, presentation, feelings, validation, normalising, conflict

What were the lessons – what would you do differently?

I had to have a delay to get myself back on track. I think next time I need to get back on track quicker than what it took me on this occasion. I know now that this process worked very easily in the end.

Follow up – is there any action that needs to be taken?

Nothing required

Your overall evaluation

I am very pleased with the outcome of this meeting. This has got to go into the memory bank (rather than me continuing to follow an unconscious pattern of behaviour).


It’s great to hear reflections on the power of giving a hearable message. We hope you find this log useful. Taking the time to reflect on a situation and looking at what was going on for you as well as for others can provide a treasure trove of insight, leading to new possibilities and more satisfying results.

Warm regards


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