Video and transcript from Madelon Guinazzo’s talk at Austin’s 3rd Annual Facilitator Summit, Control the Room

Recently, we hosted our annual facilitator summit alongside our sponsor MURAL, but this time, it was virtual. Instead of gathering in Austin’s Capital Factory, 172 eager learners, expert facilitators, and meeting practitioners gathered online for a 3-day interactive workshop. Our mission each year at Control the Room is to share a global perspective of facilitators from different methodologies, backgrounds, races, genders, sexual orientations, cultures, and ages. We gather to network, learn from one another, and build our facilitation toolkits. 

This year’s summit theme was CONNECTION. Human connection is an integral component of the work we do as facilitators.

When we connect things become possible. When we are disconnected there is dysfunction. When ideas connect they become solutions. When movements connect they become revolutions. 

Control the Room is a safe space to build and celebrate a community of practice for facilitators, which is paramount to learn, grow, and advance as practitioners and engaging in a dialogue that advances the practice of facilitation. We must learn the tools and modalities needed to foster connection and be successful facilitators in the new virtual landscape. 

“We must establish a personal connection with each other. Connection before content. Without relatedness, no work can occur.” —Peter Block

This year’s summit consisted of 18 expert facilitator guest speakers who presented lightning talks and in-depth workshops, where they shared their methods and activities for effective virtual facilitation. 

One of those speakers was Madelon Guinazzo.

Madelon Guinazzo, Co-Founder of Cuddlist, addressed that all facilitators have fears, and participants all come with their own fears as well. Her experiential-based workshop explored some common facilitator fears in a safe way. Participants built resilience and the sense of connection that leads to grounded positive action in the midst of fear. Madelon showed attendees how to tap into the powerful potential of transformation that fear holds for both the facilitator and participant. She demonstrated how to let those fear fuel participants into fun and greater trust in themselves and life, and challenged them to explore how to hold fear – their own and others – with equanimity.

“Let your fear out. Exaggerate it. Give it a voice.”

Watch Madelon Guinazzo’s talk “Facilitating Fearlessly with Heart” :

Read the Transcript

Madelon Guinazzo:

Hey, everyone. Wow! What a thrill to be here? My heart is thumping. Are you ready to play? All right. Facilitating Fearlessly With Fun is my workshop later today. This talk is actually having fun with our fears. Fun is the antidote to fear, so we’re going to start with a sense of possibility. I’m going to say a few words about what led to this content.

As Douglas said, I am a big scaredy cat, and I’ve recently learned that I have ADHD, which reframes the 50 years I spent of my life wondering why so many simple things about getting through the day seemed to be so much easier for others than for me, and why people kept telling me that I was too sensitive and to get over it. Well, in my childhood brain, the reason was obvious, I was defective. I’d better work really hard at keeping up or I’d be left behind. I have a really loving heart, and I’m committed to loving myself and the others the best I can.

Those two things together set me up for a lifetime of finding kinder and kinder ways to deal with fear. It also kicked me into being a pioneer in the field of therapeutic cuddling, which is a whole other story. But the with is underlined in this first slide because we’re never making fun of our fears. They are very justly sensitive to being mocked, and they deserve our deepest respect. And I believe that they are the portals to our greatest potential, our deepest desires, and our greatest sense of fulfillment. And as facilitators, we all have fears.

The degree to which we can engage with and connect with our fears, the way we relate to our fears is the degree to which we can show up in the room giving our full gifts, and we can also be with our participant’s fears. The degree to safety that we have in here is the degree of the safety that we bring into the room. And we’ve been talking a lot about safety, emotional safety, psychological safety. I call it perceived safety. Now for that sense of possibility. We’re going to start with a thought experiment.

I’m going to ask you right now, if you have a piece of paper or something, actually you can use the chat box for this if you want, just to record, and I’m going to ask you to think of three adjectives that describe how you’re feeling right now. What state are you in? And we’re going to remember, fears are… We’re going to switch from our left brain to our right brain and just allow those words to drift up and trust them. They don’t have to make sense.

They might or they might not, but we’re going to take 10 seconds right now just to tune into yourself and say, “How am I right now?” Go ahead and record those three words. Now we’re going to think of something… Think of something that you don’t like. Something that shouldn’t be that way. Things should be different. Bring something to mind that is a problem for you and allow yourself to notice the images that come along with it. Notice any sensations that arise in your body. Let yourself think about the implications of this problem for a moment.

And once again, we’re going to pick three adjectives. We’ll pause for a moment while you record those. How are you feeling right now? And let your first thought be the right thought. You can’t get it wrong. Okay. Now we’re going to think of something wonderful. Think of something great, something that you’re grateful for that it exists in the world. It could be big or small, simple or complex. It doesn’t matter. Something you’re just happy that that exists. And once again, three adjectives.

Go ahead and notice how you’re feeling with those thoughts and images of something that you’re grateful for. Okay. Now, if you had the same three adjectives each time, please email me and let me know, because I’m collecting data too. And if not, whatever you brought to mind, however it exists or doesn’t exist in the world out there, notice that nothing had to change for your state to change, other than your thoughts and where you directed your attention. We’ve just collected some data.

 You can run that experiment anytime you like if you notice that you’re kind of falling into the belief that we’re at the effect of circumstances. That happens to me pretty regularly, so it’s a useful reminder. It’s changing our thoughts. It changes our states, and it changes how we show up and respond to situations and circumstances in life. And that gives us a sense of possibility that we can have a different experience in the same situations when our thinking changes about it. Are you ready to play? All right, we’re going to play with our fears in a minute.

Well, actually we’re going to play with my fears, right? And maybe you’ll be able to relate. We all have slightly different flavors, but there are some universal fears about facilitators. Now, you can play along. I always tell people to participate at your own level. So you might want to sit back and just be entertained and enjoy. You might want to be an active participant and work with your own fears. This is embodied work, so we’re going to invite them into our body and our voices and to play a little bit.

Wherever you’re at with that, if you want to turn off your camera, whatever makes you feel comfortable, do this at your own level. But first, we’re going to say a word about shame, right? Because this is shadow work essentially, and we want to be really, really respectful of that. Most important thing I want to say about shame is that there is no shame in shame. It’s something that happens really easily and innocently without us even being aware of it. And I mentioned feeling defective as a child, right?

I looked outside me and I didn’t see my internal experience reflected back to me. I concluded that I was alone in it and therefore the exception and not the rule. And I responded by hiding. And that meant that other people out there couldn’t see it either, and they might conclude the same thing and hide what was in them as well. We often don’t take into account as children that we’re always comparing our insides to other people’s outsides. And we live in a world of incredible diversity, so there are so many different flavors to outsides as well as insides.

But the result of shoving some part of us inside and not letting it out is that it gets compressed. Just play with this image of something that has been shoved in a drawer and it gets bent out of shape. It builds up a lot of intense energy, and all the while we’re getting really good at ignoring it. La, la, la, la. Some people call that denial, that’s a big word, but the point is that we’re not seeing our insides clearly after a while. All this is natural and normal.

 And when we work with fear and invite it to play with us, it helps remember that there’s a very good reason for it to be cranky and, frankly, kind of scary when we start letting those fears out. We’ve shoved it away, ignored it, abused it. We’ve taught it that the world is a scary place. And now we’re teaching it that we’re trustworthy and kind. And that takes times. Be gentle and maybe wear some padded gloves when you open that drawer. All right. Here we go with some of the fear. All right. Remember, we’re having fun with them, not making fun of them.

Let’s see. Here’s one of my first fears as a facilitator. What if I’m too controlling? Am I being too controlling right now? It’s a fear I have. It’s vulnerable to be in charge. What if I’m oppressive? What if I’m a bull in a China shop shattering precious things when I turn around? What if I’m wielding my privilege and my status irresponsibly? I felt controlled. I don’t want to be that person. All right. We’re going to have fun. We’re going to exaggerate this fear. This is what it looks like when I opened Pandora’s Box.

I said do it my way! Now! This is a very controlling fear. The idea here is to kind of exaggerate it and let it out. Give it voice. And we know we’re not taking it seriously. It’s not actually happening, but this is that fear exaggerated. Drop and give me vulnerable, because I said so! All right. That’s fear number one. We’re going to move on. Fear number two, am I taking myself too seriously? Nobody will want to be around me if I’m taking myself too seriously. Maybe I’ll look stupid. Am I preaching or trying to convert people?

Am I being a fanatic. All right. Here’s what she looks like. Are we ready? Don’t you all see how important this is? The world needs to be a better place and we need to make it better by being better right now. That’s what my fear looks like of her. She’s sweet, but she’s not exactly the facilitator I want to have in the room. All right. My next fear, I’m too bossy and impatient. This one is kind of a form of controlling, and I think this one has a lot to do with my female cultural conditioning. I have to be nice or people won’t like me or include me.

But if I’m too nice, people won’t respect me and they won’t listen to me. What if I’m condescending? Oh no. Being too bossy. This is the other, I’ll be pushy or bitchy. All right. This is what she looks like. She’s really bossy. She’s just so frustrated with people not understanding. I’m speaking English, aren’t I? Or are you all just stupid? Not a great facilitator. I think. That’s one of the fears. Am I going to see my participants as idiots? Am I going to see everybody as being too slow? And are they going to see me seeing them that way, right?

Act it out if you want. Let yourself just be like, “Oh my god, everyone is an idiot. Why don’t people get this stuff? I’ve explained it a gazillion times.” All right, one more fear. Actually, I got a couple more. This one, I’m too different and people can’t relate to me. This is the, I’m a weirdo. I don’t fit in. Maybe I don’t fit in because I really am full of crap. Imposter syndrome sometimes. Anybody? All right. This is what this one can look like. Nobody understands me. Let that out if you want or just sit back and watch.

But this one sometimes looks like a pity party. This is the I’m ugly duckling syndrome. And just have some compassion for these parts and notice if the judgments are coming up for me, for yourself, for others and just see if we can just be with that and say, “Wow, that’s all really natural that that can happen.” And again, if that stuff comes up, we just kind of come back to being kinder with ourselves and slowing down. All right. The last fear we’re going to work with today is, I’m way too excited about this and I’m going to scare people away.

This is I think M mentioned that it’s my greatness that I’m really afraid of, which is there’s some truth in that. There’s a lot of truth in that quote. The inverse of I’m not enough is that I’m too much and I’m being inappropriate. My crazy is showing. I better tuck that back in. And that I’m not relatable. This one’s a biggie. This is what she looks like. This is exciting! Why don’t you all look excited? She’s a little scary, huh? So again, that fear of not being enough is the inside out version of too much.

This part of us that is so huge. And when I’m stuck in the not enough, it’s like a sweater I’m wearing that’s reversible and the inside is the too much. But being aware of that really helps me unravel the black and white either/or thinking that is underpinning a lot of fears. But that excitement is really the key to us being able to share our greatest gifts. Because if you noticed, right, all of these fears are some version of love. They have something to really offer.

The point is to feel compassion for our fears, because they really are the signposts to our hearts, and they can be the key to our greatest sense of possibilities. And when we let them out and they have fun and they feel like they can be invited to the party, they start to share their juice with us. They start to share their life energy with us, and we have more access to that life energy. And what we do, again, all the participants in the room do.

They have more access to the transformation, the sense of possibility and change that we’re here to provide space for and catalyze in the world. And if shame comes up, it’s natural and normal. You might want to shift our play into cuddling. The fears love to be cuddled as well. Say sweet, soothing, comforting things to them. Let them know that they’re safe and lovable. Well, that’s pretty much it. I hope that I haven’t been too controlling, pushy, obvious, boring, demanding, preachy, et cetera. This is my own process.

I always say and I teach that we are the facilitator of the workshop of our life, and we are also the participant that is never going home. This work is internal work. And again, that’s what we bring into the room. If you want to come play later today, we’re going to do some embodied experiences. We’re going to share some of our fears, some of our excitements, and we’ll just be gently in that process together. Good to be the first on the last day of the summit. I’m one of the new kids on the block, and this has been such a great experience.

I want to say that getting to play with voltage control and these amazing people has been so fun. And my fears have been coming up as well about being new. I feel like the new kid and the mom whose like, “Have fun. Play nice. Don’t worry about the bullies.” Thank you, everyone. This has been fun for me, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it. See you later.