Crisis? Remember to breathe...

art of hosting makes me think story as process partner Mar 01, 2022

If you ask me one of the most important things I've learned in becoming a host of conversations that matter -- and especially in facing crisis -- I'd say it is REMEMBER TO BREATHE.

Now that may sound strange, but there are some key skills to uncover here.

First, of course, is that breath is fundamental to being human. If you're not breathing.... well, you know the rest. But here's the key, from a physiological point of view -- most of us take shallow breaths -- right at the top of our lungs. And if we are afraid or anxious, it gets worse. Our systems constrict. We go into survival mode and begin to lose the capacity for generative thought. 

If you can breathe all the way down to the bottom of your lungs, you not only remain calm, you also have access to the front of your brain where all the good ideas and great resources are. Remember, if you ever find yourself in a meltdown, most likely you are operating from the reptilian brain -- no great resources there! A good way to do this is to elongate the out breath. Try this for a minute: breathe in to the count of four and out to the count of seven.

Group process works like a breath pattern too. As facilitator Sam Kaner pointed out in his "Diamond of Participation" model (called "The Breath Pattern" in the Art of Hosting community), the in breath could be called the "divergent" phase -- you're taking in all the new ideas, new people, and new possibilities.

The top of the breath, where you hold it a moment is called the "emergent" phase. Of course, when you hold your breath too long, it becomes uncomfortable. In group process, the middle of the process is where discomfort pops up. There's uncertainty. No one knows what's coming.  People try all sorts of things to regain a sense of control.

But if you can get through it, on the other side of the “groan zone” something new and innovative can emerge. Then comes the out breath -- the "convergent" phase when there's clearer direction and the group moves into clear action.

When we add the lens of story to the Breath Pattern we can see that every time we meet it unfolds like a story. And when we know story geography, we know what attitude and aptitude we need to meet the moment consciously.

Just like in the body, in a longer group process, this breath pattern repeats itself. We talk about "THE 8 BREATHS OF PROCESS ARCHITECTURE” as a map for the different phases (breaths) that make up a well hosted and expertly delivered project, initiative, innovation or event. Something that delivers well on the task and maintains a strong relational field at the same time. Following a map like this, we do good work and we do it together.


This is exactly what we will be covering this week in BEYOND FACILITATION: The Secrets of Extraordinary Hosting in Session 2. You are not too late to join us for the European/North American series. All our sessions are recorded.  Our Asia Pacific timed series starts on Tuesday March 8.


Isn't it time to have a brilliant ally on your side?

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