Creative Edge Focusing E-Newsletter

Getting A Felt Sense  of Interpersonal Situations

Using A Third Person As A Listening Facilitator                                                                      
Dr. Kathy McGuire, Director                                Week One
For four weeks, we practice an actual exercise in three different categories: An Instant "Ahah!" to integrate into your every day life at work and at home, a Felt Sensing exercise to practice this step of Focusing, and a Complete Focusing Session. Actually doing the exercise which  arrives in each e-newsletter insures that you can call upon these new skills when needed!
I've decided that, since there is so much to learn about Interpersonal Focusing, I will spend another four week cycle on this topic. Today, I cover Using A Third Person As A Listening Facilitator. Other weeks, I will review Ken Blanchard and Margaret McBride's book, The One Minute Apology: A Powerful Way To Make Things Better, Rosa Zubizarreta's Focusing-Oriented Application of the Dynamic Facilitation model for group conflict resolution, and Janet Klein and Mary McGuire's Interactive Focusing method.
Sometimes two people can sit down and use the Interpersonal Focusing Protocol on their own. But sometimes an issue just seems too hot to handle, too much anger and hurt, too much danger of slight "twists" in Focusing Listening responses which actual add in a bit of wounding sarcasm or put down instead of the kind of empathic compassion which allows another to feel safe in going more deeply with Intuitive Focusing.
In these situations, and also when a conflict happens in a Creative Edge meeting where there is a Process Monitor, or other group member, who can serve as Third Person Facilitator handy, it is helpful to have a neutral Third Person, who is not involved in the conflict, respond to each Focuser in turn with Focused Listening.
Here is how I describe that approach in the manual, Focusing In Community (Focusing en Comunidad).  (You can read the entire Chapter Five: Interpersonal Focusing, in English and in Spanish available as a free download through my blog. It gives explicit instructions and examples. Also, you can read the Interpersonal Focusing Case Studies on the website if you haven't yet):

"Using  a  Third  Person As A Listening Facilitator


Although two people can work through a trouble on their own as I have outlined above, it is often wise to insure that there is a third person present to act as a Listening facilitator.  This is especially true if very angry feelings are involved (as in the example of Stella and Karen) or when people are new at learning to set themselves aside so they can listen to another. When feelings are very strong between two people, it may be impossible for the one who is supposed to be Listening at any particular time to set aside all of her own reactions and feelings and simply reflect the other accurately.


To protect against this, the third person can take the role of Focused Listener, reflecting first one person and then the other.  The participation of the third person is especially important in Stage Two, Going Deeper, where each person is trying to use Focusing on her own feelings in order to find out something new.


On the one hand, the person who is Focusing is making herself vulnerable in a situation where the other person may be just waiting to find evidence of fault and to lay blame.  It's hard for her to explore her own possible contribution to the trouble with the very person who is most invested in proving her wrong. Having the Listening/Focusing interaction with the third person, with no interruption from the other, is much more likely to allow the kind of trust needed for approaching vulnerable feeling. 


Also, in terms of the second person, the investment in believing that the other person was wrong or bad, that she did a hurtful thing (which seems to be part and parcel of feeling angry and hurt) gets in the way of being able to reflect accurately and help the person to go deeper.  Subtle distortions, based on one's assumptions about the person's motives or hidden intentions or immaturities, creep into the reflections.  The speaker picks this up and declares, "I don't feel safe going on with you."  The third person can allow the kind of safety and sensitive Listening and Focusing instructions that can bring about a real shift in one or both persons and the possibility of change in the whole trouble they are having.


            In choosing a third person, it's important to find someone with whom both people feel comfortable and whom both people feel will be unbiased.  It is also important that each speaker get approximately equal time through the processing experience, as a guarantee that each person feels fairly treated.


            If a third person is doing the main part of the reflecting of one speaker, before switching to a turn for the second person,  the second person should try to do a summary reflection of what the first has said, so that the first person will know that her communication is being taken in  some way.


      The rhythm of Interpersonal Focusing is worked out between the two or three people involved.  They must agree on a time limit - some point at which they intend to be finished or will at least reassess the situation and decide whether to continue or to meet again some other day.  Usually, a serious tension takes about 1 -2 hours to work through, with each person having several short five or ten minutes turns for clarification and laying out of the issue and each person having a twenty minute turn for going deeper, with a few more short turns at the end for reactions.


As they go along, the two will make a lot of agreements about how to proceed, like "How about I take ten minutes, then you take ten, then we decide where to go from there."  Each person will also be responsible for indicating when she feels a need for a change in speakers - a Listener may need to say, "I can't go on much longer without a turn", or a speaker may say, "I've said enough; I need to hear a response from you".  If there is a third person Listening facilitator, she may want to turn to the second person and say, "Can you say back what she just said?  It seems important that she hear it from you, or, to a speaker, "Can you say that directly to (the second person) - I think she would like to hear it from you".


            It's also nice, and a good idea, to give the third person a five or ten minute listening turn at the end of Interpersonal Focusing so that he or she can work through any tension left from participating in what may have been a hard interaction.  It's always a good idea to take care of our helpers!" (P.101-102)


If you haven't yet, please read the entire Chapter Five: Interpersonal Focusing, in English and in Spanish, from my manual, Focusing in Community (Focusing en Comunidad) available as a free download through my blog. It gives explicit instructions and examples. Also, please read the Interpersonal Focusing Case Studies if you haven't yet.

You can order the manual with multi-media CDs and DVD to help you learn Focusing and Listening skills as The Self Help Package available in my Store

Focusing Exercise For Today


If you want a further Focusing Exercise for today, you could

  1. turn to the list you have made of up to five unresolved interpersonal situations or find a new incident more recently and 
  2. "sit with" each in a Focusing way, asking yourself if it would make sense to approach the person directly, instead of only working on your "felt sense" of the situation on your own.
  3. If "yes" for any of them, imagine how you might approach that person, suggesting the use of Interpersonal Focusing.
  4. Ask yourself whether a third person facilitator might be needed and who that might be.
  5. If you like, you could commit yourself to trying to resolve as many of these conflicts as possible over the coming year.
  6. You can join for hands-on support during this endeavor. I'll be there to help.
Two Yahoo E-Groups, Creative Edge Practice and Creative Edge Collaboration, for Ongoing Support and Learning
Self-Help Package, CDs, DVD, manual English and espanol
Experiential Focusing Therapy manual
Certification Programs: Consultant/Helping Professional : Now with option of Structured Level 1-4 Listening/Focusing Training With Ruth Hirsch followed by 10 supervision sessions with Dr. McGuire. Contact Dr. McGuire for information on this NEW option
About Creative Edge Focusing (TM) 
Mission: bring Core Skills of Intuitive Focusing and Focused Listening, and The Creative Edge Pyramid of applications from individual to interpersonal to organizational, to all audiences throughout the world.
Dr. Kathy McGuire, Director
Location: Beaver Lake in Rogers, AR
These materials are offered purely as self-help skills. In providing them, Dr. McGuire is not engaged in rendering psychological, financial, legal, or other professional services. If expert assistance or counseling is needed, the services of a competent professional should be sought.
Creative Edge Focusing (TM)
Dr. Kathy McGuire