Skillful Facilitation for Any Situation with Laird Schaub
Inside Community Podcast — Ep. 009
Moving groups through tough decisions can be tricky, if not impossible, without a skilled and well-trained facilitator to hold folks through the process. Laird Schaub joins us today to talk about the how’s and why’s of excellent facilitation. You’ll learn from his 40+ years of lived community experience and training in facilitation, and leave with practices you can use in your community conversations.
- Laird Schaub lived for four decades (1974-2014) at Sandhill Farm, an income-sharing rural community that he helped found. He also helped found the Foundation for Intentional Community and served as that organization’s main administrator for 28 years (1987-2015). In 1987 he created a self-insurance fund for health care needs among income-sharing communities called PEACH (Preservation of Equity Accessible for Community Health) that he ran for 22 years (1987-2009), growing it from a dream to a loan fund with net assets over $500,000. In addition to his expertise in community living, he’s parlayed his passion for good process into a consulting business focused on cooperative group dynamics, styled CANBRIDGE (Consensus And Network Building for Resolving Impasse and Developing Group Effectiveness), which he’s been doing since 1987. As both a consultant and a teacher he pioneered a facilitation and leadership training program, which he’s delivered the program 16 times in locations all across the US and Canada. Since 2007 he’s authored a blog that has more than 1200 entries, writing about group dynamics, intentional community, and his life along the way. His blog is communityandconsensus.blogspot.com
Learn from Laird in the following 10-hour webinars through FIC in 2022:
- Conflict • 5 consecutive Tuesdays • Oct 25-Nov 22 ic.org/conflict-course/
- Consensus I • 5 consecutive Thursdays • Sept 15-Oct 13 ic.org/consensus101/
- Consensus II • 5 consecutive Wednesdays • Oct 26-Nov 23 ic.org/consensus201/
- Membership • 5 consecutive Tuesdays • May 10-June 7 ic.org/membership-course/
- Facilitation • 5 consecutive Tuesdays • Sept 13-Oct 11ic.org/facilitation-course/
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— Rebecca, your podcast host
Rebecca Mesritz 0:01
The inside community podcast is sponsored by the Foundation for intentional community. Did you know that the fic recently launched an online discussion forum, where they hope to foster live and ongoing conversations between individuals living in starting and aspiring to build new communities. The forum is a place where people go from dreaming about community to doing it. Whether that looks like urban cohousing, an eco village, a collective farm or something we’ve never seen before. This forum space will help you get there, you can visit the forum [email protected] Hello, and welcome back. This is Rebecca Mesritz. In today’s episode, we are going to talk about facilitation. And this is one of those topics that whether you are living in an intentional community or your version of community is a local church group or a co op or cohousing. In any of those situations, you are probably going to have times when you want to get things done. Enter the role of the facilitator, the person who helps to hold the meeting, keep things on track, and make sure that things get done efficiently and clearly. Now, it seems all pretty simple to have a business meeting but then you have people’s personal processes are bad days are good days are deep seated feelings about certain issues that can sometimes get in the way of groups coming together and making good decisions together. And so it’s so important to have someone who’s skilled at navigating these bumpy roads to help the group move forward with grace and ease. I personally have served as a facilitator in meetings, and it’s tough work, and it really does take a level of centering and training. And so I’m very honored to have Laird shalbe here today to talk with us about facilitation because he has led numerous facilitation and leadership training intensives and just has so much skill to bring and share with us all about how to be a better facilitator. Laird shalbe lived for four decades at Sand Hill Farm and income sharing rural community that he helped found. He also helped found the foundation for intentional community and served as the fic main administrator for 28 years. In 1987, he created a self insurance fund for health care needs among income sharing communities called peach that he ran for 22 years. In addition to his expertise and community living, he’s parlayed his passion for good process into a consulting business focused on cooperative group dynamics called Ken bridge, and also leads facilitation and leadership training intensives. Since 2007, He has authored a blog that has more than 1200 entries, writing about group dynamics, intentional community and his life along the way. Laird Shao, thank you so much for joining me today for the show.
Laird Schaub 3:18
You’re welcome, Rebecca.
Rebecca Mesritz 3:20
So before we get started, I usually like to ask my guests to give me a brief snapshot of their community. And I know you’re not living in community right now. So can you tell me just a little bit about your community experience.
Laird Schaub 3:37
inspiration to try Community Living came from being profoundly affected by college dormitory living as an undergraduate. In the years 67 to 71. It was a time of great social unrest in the country and on campus, and I found it terribly exciting. I lived in in, you know, with my peers, who had similar LSAT scores, and we together explored things like feminism, racism, militarism, all these different things that I had not really been exposed to growing up in the Republican suburbs of Chicago. And then I found that when I left college, I didn’t really want to continue with graduate school, but I missed the stimulation of the of the college dormitory experience. And then I found that oh, maybe intentional community would be a pathway to recapture what I’d call a combination of stimulation and support. And that led me to get together with friends who had new through in college and see whether or not we could recreate that kind of dynamism that that I experienced and that I sought stumbled into in college, in intentional community. And out of the group of us that were for there were two couples that were willing to try that and it led to the starting of a community which became Sand Hill Farm in northeast Missouri in 1974. work. And I lived there for four decades. Essentially, I was there because and stayed there because I found what I was looking for, I got back into that zone of stimulation and support that meant so much to me. So in the, in my particular case, this was a small community, we were rarely larger than 10 people, 10 adults, we raised children there it was agriculturally based. It was income sharing, we grew 80% of our own food. It was secular, we just had ourselves to figure out how to solve problems and how to decide to move forward. And there were a lot of bumps along the road. But it was a it was a glorious time, and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.
Rebecca Mesritz 5:45
Sounds idyllic really?
Laird Schaub 5:48
Well, I want to say there were it wasn’t all laminar flow by any means. But it sure was the the excitement and stimulation that I was looking for.
Rebecca Mesritz 6:02
Yeah, I’m hearing so many people right now there seems to be this real resurgence of interest, almost like a back to the land 2.0 kind of a vibe that I’m getting from a lot of people who are really interested in resilience and sustainability. And yeah, just living in the way that you just described. So thank you for sharing that history.
Laird Schaub 6:27
Well, I want to say that it wasn’t back to the land for me, I because I didn’t start from the land, it was going to the land for the first time and discovering what that might look like. That has been a profound experience for me. And even, to my surprise, in spiritually, understand which, which evokes a connection with Native American traditions, which I have no racial connection to. However, that is a common theme in native culture is connection to the land, and spirit. And I found that, that in my living for four decades in one place, and actually working with the land, and having a steward relationship with him. And that was, so it was it was like discovering a connection to a land rather than back to the land.
Rebecca Mesritz 7:16
Well, you know, as I was thinking about our conversation today, and the reason I wanted to talk to you is because I know you have so much experience around facilitation and taking people through how to support groups. And I was thinking that, you know, for people who have never lived in community, and particularly for people who haven’t lived in community, and also haven’t necessarily had a corporate job, they might not really know even what facilitation means or why they would need to have that. So can you talk a little bit about what, like your take on that?
Laird Schaub 7:55
Do several threads. So let me try to set the table properly. I don’t think I had this awareness at the outset in 1974. When I got started in a sand hill, however, it grew over time, and awareness that we were trying to create cooperative culture, which is in contrast to a mainstream US culture, at least, that is competitive, hierarchic and adversarial. We were trying to do something in contrast to that. And then use if you think about it, given that we certainly me and most people, there are exceptions, but most of us have been raised in in that culture, and we have been conditioned to respond competitively. And that you if you don’t realize that that’s the background, we bring into the the attempt to do community living, you’re going to be frustrated, because you’re just going to have more occasions to fight. There’s more more intermingled living, more things that you’re sharing, and there’s more occasion to have disagreements. And if it’s if every one of those is a battle, it’s going to be exhausting. So you have to get good results. In community, I’ve come to the view, you need to learn the conditioning, to fight or to run away or subvert or whatever, when there’s differences. The interesting case of Community Living is when we don’t get along, if it doesn’t really matter how you make decisions, if you think the same way. But some of the time, you won’t agree and how will that moment go in community? The how you do things matters as much as the what. So it’s not just what decisions are made. It’s how you got to the decision, and whether people feel brought along by it or run over by it or left to the side or coerced or all those different things. And so you somebody who’s a facilitator in a mainstream setting is basically focused on the what how do we efficiently get to a decision that’s legitimate by whatever You know, you decide legitimate is in community though a facilitator needs to pay attention, not just to the ideas, and how do they coalesce? How do we solve problems? You also need to pay attention to the energy? And are you bringing people along, or another way of framing it is. Relationships are the lifeblood of community, you succeed and community when the relationships thrive. If the relationships are brittle or fractured, you’re not going to get a lot of joy out of that experience. I mean, I’m not saying it’s a complete disaster, I’m just saying is a disappointment, and not living up to its potential. So you need to do problem solving in a way that enhances relationships. And the key challenges, what about when we disagree and the stakes are high? How do we do it, then? Well, that’s what a good facilitator knows how to do, I think and so how to carry the group along without leaving somebody behind to build durable solutions that people feel like, this may not be where I thought we would end up however, I see how we got there, I’m included, I’m on board, and that you want those kinds of solutions. Now, as a group develops the capacity to unlearn its competitive conditioning, and to respond cooperatively, which is all baggage. But as it learns the ability to do that, you can’t expect people to come into the experiment and get it right away. That’s just naive. Some people are pretty far along and can be contributing in a pretty constructive collaborative way right from the get go. But it’s very, very rare for the whole group to be that. And in my experience, having a skilled facilitator who helps the group behave in the direction that it wants to but forgets in the heat of the moment is a night and day difference in terms of the quality of work the group does. So I like to think of the facilitator in that dynamic. As a midwife, it’s sort of striving to helping the baby community survive its infancy, to get to be a more mature state. And as the capacity of the group grows, and its understanding about how to be collaborative and cooperative, and not feed, the competitive beast is going to be less and less over time. And the need for the facilitator is less over time. So it plays a very important role in the early part. And then as the strength of the group grows, is not so important, who’s running the meetings,
Rebecca Mesritz 12:25
I’ve really liked the idea of, of bringing people along, and sort of onboarding as opposed to coerce them to get your way and have what you want to have happen. And I feel like there’s Yeah, it’s so nuanced, really like the difference between bringing, like bringing people along and settle coercion, or, you know, finding a collaborative solution to things that really relies on the fact that everyone’s bringing their own innate wisdom, and that whatever I might think is best for the group in that moment. That’s just my opinion. And that there might be a greater wisdom, and by relying on the group’s intelligence, and I’m curious to know what, you know, do you have a way that you recommend people kind of bring that forth? Like, how do you? How do you inspire that
Laird Schaub 13:39
book, I have a couple of different angles on it. One of them is just the recognition that in the mainstream, the model of a good meeting, generally, you know, coming together to look at things is working the rational zone, or with ideation and ideas, and AI, and that’s powerful, that’s got usefulness, I’m not anti rational. However, if you stop and reflect for just a little bit, humans are far more complicated than that. And we have a lot of other realms of knowing and working with information, in particular, emotion, emotional realm. So I want to highlight that but But it’s more than that. It could be intuitive. It could be kinesthetic body, knowing it could be spiritual, it could be sexual. I know groups that work with different combinations of all of those things as a potent avenue for getting closer and understanding how they relate to topics. There isn’t one right answer. It’s just that it’s an interesting question that’s often not examined. Which of these channels do we want to honor and work with? And how would we end how do we do that? So that’s one piece, and that’s often not even considered. And so I in particular, when I work with facilitators in a training session, I focus especially On the emotional piece, however, also I will work with the kinesthetic and intuitive pieces to in particular, the the I can say more about those other ones, but let’s just stay with the emotional piece. And if you just did that, in addition to ideas where you welcomed feelings, as well as thoughts about a topic, that would be very enriching, some people know something more deeply or in a more nuanced way, emotionally than they know it rationally. And it doesn’t mean that one is better than the other, it’s just a different way of knowing it enriches the conversation, we mostly Act, or the default from the mainstream, let me put it if you import that in is everybody sort of talks in a well modulated voice and what you know, one speaker at a time, and everything has to be translated into thought to be legitimized. And if somebody is highly emotional in a meeting that’s considered out of control, or perhaps inappropriate or manipulative, or whatever. And so I want to start with the idea that not everything goes that you can have boundaries around emotional input. However, it’s data. It’s like, it’s information about how we relate to the topic, so long as it’s authentic, rather than staged, or you know, meant to, you know, steer things, but rather that this is my response. And you can separate usefully I think, aggression from emotion. So it’s if somebody’s angry, that to me, that’s interesting. And I want to know more about like, Well, why what’s the trigger? What does it mean? Okay, that doesn’t mean you’re going to get your way. It just means your, this topic touches you that way. I think that’s legitimate. Now, if it’s accompanied with putting somebody down, judging them, attacking them, you can interrupt the attack while legitimizing your upset. Okay, let’s find out what the upset is, I think. And I teach that as a facilitator, and try to practice it when I’m doing this. This is when I am the facilitator, I will try to demonstrate what that means. Now, one of the other things that’s embedded in this is the topic of diversity, almost all groups will have some kind of value of like, yeah, we support diversity, we want to be open to a wide variety of people. And often what people mean when they say that is they’re thinking about color, they’re thinking about sexual orientation, talking about spiritual practices, things like that disabilities, all of those things count, those are examples of diversity. But it is a far richer topic than that. And you, you always have some diversity in your group, even if you don’t have all the ones are the kinds that you or maybe would like to have. And that would include the way we take in information, the way we process it, the way we share it, how we relate to risk, how we relate to structure, how we relate to safety, these are all, we all think all those are positive things. And yet, we don’t mean the same things by those things. And so in order to create an arena in which all input is welcome, it requires a fair amount of sophistication to understand how do we create an an, an equally open on ramp into the conversation? And that is a complex topic, and requires the group to do some self reflecting of, we’re not all the same? And if we say that’s okay, how do we work with that constructively, which requires us to change the way we do things from time to time and not always do it the same way, which is going to always favor a certain style of communication, or a certain way of knowing if we’re not mindful about, we need to mix it up. So everybody gets something rather than it’s always leaning one way. And then both groups don’t even have that conversation. They don’t even know it’s an issue. And they fall into that trap. And then it leads to some people having more say more power, not because their power mongers are trying to pull a fast one is because this is an unexamined inequality. And so a good a good facilitator needs to have that sensitivity, and alter the way things are engaged. So So let me give an example. Let me drill down a little bit more. I’ve said a lot of framing stuff. What I’ve come to, as a good way to, to work with a topic in a cooperative setting. Now we’re talking is,
is to start with an opening for people to share, is there anything you would like the group to know about what comes up for you about this topic is background. And that could often mean a backstory that’s got nothing to do. Maybe even with the history of that group. It could be from a prior experience on this topic. Let’s see. Let me make up an example to say that we’re not just talking theoretically. Suppose we’re talking about pet policy. We’re talking about dogs in particular Right, and what do we want to do with dogs in the group. And so if you just just jump into the topic, who’s got an idea about what’s a good policy for the dog, that’s fair and even on some sense, but it’s a minefield, because it’s, it’s very unlikely that if you said, I’m making this up, suppose you got 20 people is pretty sure, you’re going to have a pretty mix of experience with dogs in that group, from maybe childhood, you might have somebody who says, again, I’m making up a story. Dogs are just amazingly powerful and a positive influence in my life. My mother’s my mother died, when, when she was 48. And my father continued through life alone, and, and he was very depressed at first. And then he got a dog and it changed his life. And it really made a big difference to him coming out of his shell, and I saw him resurrect his life. And it was just this incredible rebirth, Renaissance for him. And, and the dog was crucial to that, okay, and then the next person you talk to, and they say, when I was eight years old, my younger sister was six was mauled by the neighbor’s German Shepherd and almost lost her arm. And it’s, it was a very frightening experience. And now I’m very scared of dogs. And so neither experience is wrong. But if you didn’t make room to hear that story, before you got into the topic, you would have trouble understanding why person was saying what they were saying, with such strong feelings. You know, you think, wow, this person, are they really open to what others are saying, and you didn’t real me you didn’t make room for that background to come out? Is the point I’m trying to make. If you start the conversation, not with, what do we want to do? But what’s in play? What’s the field for this group on this topic? If and it may be somebody doesn’t have a story? That’s powerful, no problem we just go on. But if they do, it’s far better to legitimize that and hear it. This is not a deciding thing. It’s like his background is part of the field in which we need to work sensitively. And that when it’s done in that way, so it’s not a tug of war over how we proceed. But it’s the background that we need to make a decision in it then is possible for people to now and it’s not how do I get around somebody? But how do I build to them, so they’re not left behind. And if you don’t know what that information is, you’re grap, you’re groping in the dark. So this was a long story to illustrate how, as a facilitator, I’ve learned to try to think a lot of times there’s stuff in play, and I don’t know what it is, let’s just regularly make room for it at the front end, if somebody doesn’t get a chance to tell their story about something that’s powerful of the nature that I just used as examples, it becomes a distorting factor for them, how they hear things and how they work with things and their ability to feel like they’re taken into account. So it’s just much, much better to get that out at the front end. That’s what something I’ve learned and which I incorporate in the way I work as a facilitator.
Rebecca Mesritz 23:13
I really appreciate inside of that. That seems like kind of heading off the emotional processing in the past a little bit, as opposed to waiting for everyone to be heated and excited or angry or whatever that thing is. Which I really Yeah, I really appreciate that that tactic. You know, I’m curious because I’ll say in our, in my experience in facilitated groups, a lot of times what we’ve tried to do is sort of split up the emotional process meetings and the business meetings. And not that there isn’t some level of emotional emotionality that comes up in business meetings as well. But one of the techniques that we’ve used this to make sure that we’re making time to do you know, emotional processing work together, and clearing up the backlog so that we’re not bringing that into the business meeting, you know, the unresolved traumas, but sometimes it’s just not, you just can’t help it. I mean, it’s so funny when you brought up dogs I had to laugh because frequently in this podcast, dogs have come up as a big as a big thing. And um, you know, pets, dogs, animals, kids are the big ones. And there’s something that really feels gets triggered on this like primal level of security, safety need, like entitlement, all of that sort of comes up in those conversations that seem like they’re about business. or about policy or about how you want to conduct your community. And then all of a sudden you’re like looped into somebody’s, you know, trauma or trigger or story that you didn’t know about. And, you know, short, obviously, you can, I love this practice that you’ve just brought forth. But I’m wondering when those kinds of things start to happen, and you are trying to just get a decision made, and all of a sudden, now someone’s having like a really emotional experience. How do you create space and time for that, that feels honoring, also of the fact that people are busy and have work and like decisions do need to be made, you know, where’s the balance inside and that I
Laird Schaub 25:44
will, what I’ve learned is that is so long as the responses authentic, rather than strategic, you know, they’re, they’re angry not as, as a way to dominate the conversation, they’re angry because they’re angry. And so it means so long as we’ve got that baseline, you I’ve discovered, you can’t really any decision you make when somebody’s in that space, where it’s unaddressed, is brittle, it’s hard to get by in hearing isn’t very good. There’s a lot of distortion, you know, plowing through without addressing, it doesn’t work as what I’m saying. It may, it may be less time on the clock in the meeting, but you’re not really solving problems with that technique. They’ll the inflamation implementation will be poor, people will be unhappy, there’s a price to pay for that. Okay. So what I’ve learned instead is to okay, how do we meet the person where they are, and essentially, when somebody is in what I call a non trivial reaction, it’s better almost always to recognize what’s going on. I mean, to say, Okay, your reaction, this is what it is, this was the trigger. And sometimes you have to take it further to say, and this is what the meaning is for you. That doesn’t mean you get to control what goes on. And so you extend to the person hearing, they have a right to be heard. And for two reasons. One is that I mean, that’s who they are. That’s what’s going on. And there’s a tendency when you’re in high reaction, to feel isolated and not trust that you will be accurately held. So that has to be done. That’s a demonstratable thing. It’s a doable thing. And just as a footnote there, it’s not enough to just say, Rebecca, I hear you, I have to be able to give you, Rebecca, you really pissed off that somebody said something negative about dogs, because you that has been so precious for you and your life. And it’s really hard for you to hear that. You know that and you have to feel it. Yes, that was what I’m reacting to, or I got it wrong. And we correct it until I get it. Right. So that you report that I’ve heard you accurately, then that is a de escalating thing. That is distortion associated with reactivity is lessened at that point. I mean, the thing that doesn’t happen is you hurt me accurately. I hate that. Well, nobody says that. I mean, that never happens. I mean, when we all want to be heard for what’s going on. And when you would give them that it’s like water in a desert. And then people hear better afterwards. Now that doesn’t solve the problem. But it’s a prelude to like, okay, and you’re giving me information about how this topic touches you, not as a thought, but as a feeling. And you’re also giving me your, say, you’re giving me clues as to how to hold you, and what what would the things would matter to you and gives me room to think about how do I bridge to where you are, and still hold what other people want as well. And that’s what I’m thinking about as a facilitator, or as a member of the group. That information is very powerful. I mean, I want to circle back to something you said earlier in our exchange that which I believe in that, I always think there’s sufficient wisdom in the group to solve the problem. My job as a facilitator is to create enough authenticity in a safe enough container where all that can come out, you know, and that the hearing is good, and that the group stays in a collaborative flow, rather than a tug of war flow. And that that’s my job is the facilitator. And then they’ll find the solution. If I can create the right container. So if if there’s reactivity, you got to go there first. Not later, you got to deal with the right now. And then when I extend to that person, the right to be heard and held. As soon as we get that established, I will stay with that person to say this is tied to a responsibility that goes right with it, to extend that same caring to others. So it can’t be just we hear you, you now need to show that you’re working with people whose views are different than yours. I will first see that you’re taking care of but now you need to come to the plate for me, and I’ll hold their feet right to the fire.
Rebecca Mesritz 29:49
Are you enjoying Laird jobs insights into facilitation as much as I am? Well, you can learn so much more from him and others through their writings and communities Magazine. Since 1972, communities has published over 3400 articles, including 129 by Laird himself. And all of them are available to be read by subscribers of any type, whether print plus digital or digital only. With a digital subscription for as low as $20 annually, you’ll get access to view online and download the latest publications and all of the 190 back issues of communities magazine. With your subscription, you can deep dive into all of Laird’s writings, including this summer edition, which will feature layers 130th article, you can learn more about communities magazine by visiting Gen hyphen, us.net/communities. Or you can just go to the show notes where I will have a link to the magazine. Now let’s get back to my interview with Laird. There’s something about just that I’m aware of that you’re talking about in terms of the culture. And you know, I guess if you’re brought in as an outside facilitator, that might be a different thing. But I’m just aware that within a group, you know, a big piece of facilitation is actually something that doesn’t even happen in the meeting. There’s like a self, the self governance aspect of Yeah, I think building conviviality and connection and listening like honing practices of of true listening, and empathy. And I just wanted to sort of bring that to the table as well, as you know, if you treat, I think this is part of that unlearning that you were talking about earlier, around competitive conditioning, if you treat every topic that comes to your meeting, like something to be won or lost, or you’re right, and then the other people are wrong, or vice versa, then there’s gonna be a lot of struggle in that you’ve created war when there doesn’t need to be war, as opposed to building loving connections with people throughout the week, or the days leading up to the meeting and around the meeting. So that when you actually get there, you’re all working on the same page and approaching the problems sort of side by side as opposed to across from each other at each other.
Laird Schaub 32:32
Yeah, you do need to trust that even even when you disagree that there’s a fundamental carrying, and it’s also the reason you have common one of the reason you have common values is that you you’ve explicitly aggregated around these things that you agree on. And it’s worth laboring through the awkward stuff, because you’re building together around these common things. So that needs to be alive for the group, and there needs to be a tension then when there’s hurt, that there’s healing, you know, that that is attended to, there’s going to be bumps, there’s going to be awkwardnesses and hurts. And the image I tried to hold, Rebecca is that we’re all crippled gods, that we that we all have damaged, and that we all have the divine within us. And it’s a question of, we can’t let the fact that we’re crippled stop us from trying to do things. And and we have to allow for that divine to surface and be held and, and worked with, rather than you’re, you’re my you’re my problem, you know, it’s like, no, you’re there. You’re your fellow traveler. Mm hmm.
Rebecca Mesritz 33:40
Yeah. Well, and in that, in that journey, you know, you talk about your as I said earlier, you were talking about this idea of unlearning competitive conditioning. And I’m wondering, how is there a way do you know of a way to start to bring that in to these cooperative cultures? I don’t necessarily know that during a meeting is the best time to do that unlearning process, or maybe it is I don’t know, what do you Well, you can
Laird Schaub 34:11
I mean, for example, one of the things you’re trying to do, you’re trying to move away from combativeness toward curiosity, when when somebody says something that is either doesn’t make sense to you or contradicts your experience or disagrees with your thinking. That’s the key moment. It’s like you alright, you have reaction. Now, the question is, what do you do with that? And what you want is like, let me make sure I’m understanding how you got there. Maybe your thinking will reveal something that’s unknown to me or a way that I can enhance my thinking rather than you are a threat to me now, because you you’re going in a different direction than what I think we ought to go in. And so it’s do we respond with that? Tell me more. Not so that I have roped to hang you but be so that I understand better, right rather than with now the fight is on. And so that would be an example of a competitive response versus a cooperative response. And so as a facilitator, I get a chance to step in, in those moments of disagreement, and demonstrate that curiosity and openness are showing how they’re not necessarily saying something that is opposed to you, it’s different than yours. There’s a way that maybe this can be put together, it doesn’t have to be a world war three, you know, kind of thing. So I can, I can demonstrate that as a facilitator. And then people can be brought along when they see that. Oh, okay. I was about to say something nasty. Maybe that wasn’t such a good idea. Oh, that’s good. That’s good. So so there’s a, you know, I want to circle back to something we said earlier, which is around, I’ve come this didn’t, I didn’t start this way. But after 2025 years of living in community, I said, you know, what, what’s really indicative of whether somebody’s going to be a member that you’re going to want to live with, is not really that they exist, they think just like you, or that they have the exact same interpretation of the common values. It’s not going to be night and day. But I found over the years, we rarely had somebody, you know, we were in an organic farm in a Sand Hill Farm. And we we rarely had somebody come in and say, you know, what you need to do you need to use Roundup? I mean, that just didn’t happen. I mean, it could have been, we didn’t have that problem. I mean, there’s people in the world believe that way. But they didn’t come to our place, you know, they they weeded themselves out. So we didn’t have that kind of gross level problem. Well, we did have, well, we did have was, or what we found was more important was what I would call a package of communication skills. That is the we’re looking for people who, who are pretty articulate about what their thinking was, could explain it well, could could be are pretty articulate about their feelings. Were able to shift perspectives to see something through another person’s eyes. I don’t mean change their minds so much as see it another way. I mean, can understand like, let me sow see it through your eyes? Some people can’t do that. And it’s a booger working with them. You know what, whereas I’m saying? That’s a skill you want to see. And people, can they function well, in the presence of non trivial distress and others? This is, these are the kinds of skills that we found, if we get people like that, we can always teach somebody how to drive a tractor. That was like, we needed that skill. But that was simple compared with teaching somebody how to be articulate, or how well do they how accurately do they listen? I mean, it’s to what people are saying, so they get it at depth, those kinds of things, became very indicative of whether we wanted that person in the group. And you can, and those are things that can be enhanced. It’s not like you are where you are, and it’s, you know, set concrete, you can get better at all those things, if you have the motivation to do so. Yeah, how?
I would say, for me, that Well, I mean, you got you have to put yourself in a position to work with people who are better at it than you, and no and willing to learn from them. I mean, I think and so you have to first admit, I’m not great at this. First of all, so you have an awareness that there’s an issue, and then you got to put yourself in a position where you can learn. And fortunately, community can can be a good environment for that depends on what you’re with and what the skill level of the group is. But that for instance, I would say that you’ve got these two major pieces that I’ve already touched on, in this conversation of you there’s a there’s a content or an idea side, and then there’s an emotional or energetic side. And just if you work just in those two realms, by the time I’d started the community, I was 24 years old, 1974, I was already pretty good with the idea and content side, but I didn’t know anything really about the energy side. And I like all of my work as developed myself into a fuller person has been from that point onward, getting it that you know what, Buster, you’re not very good at this, and that’s not gonna work. And so you’re gonna have to, I mean, this is this painful, some of the things I went through to figure out how to get better and better. And by dedicating myself, you know, and, you know, we’re now talking 50 years later, I’m better at it. And, and I can even to the point where I can teach it, but I couldn’t have done that when I was 24 years old.
Rebecca Mesritz 39:34
I love the idea of the humility and eagerness to grow as a thing to look for as well. And in people that might join a group, you know, just to say, in my experience, I’ll say, frequently the people that came to the Emerald village or to any organization are Trying to put this like, very presented appearance forward of, you know, I’m a fully baked cake. And here’s my resume and like, this is all things that makes me so great. And you know, I think there’s something really beautiful about saying, yeah, these are all the things that are really great about me. And I’m actually really trying, the reason I want to be here is because I want to work on this thing that I know, I’m not all that good at. And you guys seem like you’re pretty good at it. And I’d like to learn and wow, like, oh, just to imagine what that would feel like to hear that from an oncoming member, as opposed to, you know, I can facilitate this group for you, if you which we’ve actually had we had people come and say, Oh, would you like me to know?
Laird Schaub 40:52
You can shut I believe I’ve had that experience. Man. Right. I think one of the saddest things I encounter is people who, who are older people, I would say north of 50, that’s just in a broad brushstroke, and who have got considerable community experience under their belt, and then they’re, and they’re not in community, and they’re looking for one. And and the question is, was I sit with it? People I know, you know, and so I have a sense of who they are and what their history has been, it’s like, are they really open to doing things differently than what they know. And that’s not always the case. And it’s like, it’s hard to find a place because they’re going to be this person that comes in and wants to start telling people how to do things. And that is not fun. It doesn’t go well. And it’s like, so I don’t a lot of times have much to give people like that, because they’re not, they kind of feel like I’ve paid my dues. And now I’m it’s time for people to listen to me. And it’s like, that’s not a track.
Rebecca Mesritz 41:57
What do you recommend to those people? I mean, it seems like
Laird Schaub 42:02
it I mean, in a broad brushstroke, it is, it is tend to be more common as people age. But not not uniformly, there’s, you know, it’s, it’s pretty interesting, there’s a real division, some people as they age get more open, and more, and they let go, and they feel more free. And they’re pretty interesting to be around. And yet others kind of closed down, you feel like, there’s, they’re just, they don’t have the same wattage inside their heads as they did before. They’re just not as curious anymore. They’re mailing it in, they want comfort and be reinforced rather than I mean, I’m not, I’m not trying to say this is a pandemic of that. But it’s, I see it enough, that it’s not easy to help somebody who’s looking for they’re looking for security, and they’re looking for companionship, but they’re also looking to be honored, and apt to come in and be honored right away. And it’s like, it’s that’s uphill. So they’re not really looking to clean toilets, you know, and, and to do the Karma Yoga. So it’s, it’s tricky business.
Rebecca Mesritz 43:12
I think that’s just such a beautiful thing to bring words to their to honestly, I know so many communities who are interested in creating multi generational intergenerational realities. And that that could be perceived as a real issue. And yeah, I know, that’s something that we want to do here is, is have older people as a, as a piece of, we don’t want it to just be a bunch of like people in their 30s and 40s. And their kids. And that’s it. Like we really feel like there’s, there is a room and a place to want to honor people’s wisdom and the wisdom that they share. But also honor everyone’s wisdom, with the wisdom that that that everyone brings to the team. There is another side of this coin.
Laird Schaub 43:59
We do i My observation, we have a US culture venerates youth, and is generally speaking, gold people are in the way. I mean, that’s a very broad stroke. But I mean, it’s kind of like, you know, it’s time for the young folks to get their chance. And and people would rather stumble in the dark and figure it out on their own often rather than take advantage of the fact that a lot of times older people have experienced, it’s relevant, but they’re not asked. And it’s not that they’re demanding. It’s like they’re available and would like to be asked, and they’re not. And it’s like they’re so that’s the other side of this coin. You if you really want to build a viable, vibrant intergenerational community, you’re going to have to do this dance in both directions. You know, they In other words, there’s got to be room for the new ideas and the dynamism and the creativity of the younger generation. There have to be real opportunities for them to do stuff their way and it’s a mistake to just write them off because they’re they’ve reached a certain age now So just sit here in the quiet in the corner here, we’ll see that I’ll tell you when the meals are ready. That’s not going
Rebecca Mesritz 45:06
to knitting needles.
Laird Schaub 45:10
Yeah, right. Try not to poke anybody with Well,
Rebecca Mesritz 45:12
I’ll say most of the older folks that I’ve met recently who are interested in community definitely are not ready to be retired to a porch. But But I have respect also, I mean, I think there’s something in here about, about boundaries really, and, and understanding where where you’re at in your life and what you have energy for, at different periods of time. And, yeah, the beauty of someone who can say, Yeah, I’m not going to be digging ditches at this stage of life, but I’m happy to help with kids childcare, or I’m happy to help in the kitchen, or I’m happy to help or, you know, keep the library up, or whatever those things are that might match their energetic structure. Yeah, I think what comes to me around facilitation and boundaries, the question is really, you know, I’ve been in meetings where someone comes up with what feels like a really hard boundary. And sometimes it can feel like a, like a conversation shut down. You know, like, no, emphatic no. How would a skilled facilitator, hold that in a in a circle?
Laird Schaub 46:34
I’d guess my first instinct would be to find out tell me, tell me what the knows about, you know, what, what, what is the bad thing that happens if we crossed this line? Let me hold it accurately right now. I’m not get I get it strong. But I’m not sure what it is. So let me let me make sure I’m old enough. And, you know, so that, and then often the answer to that will give me clues as to how can I hold this? How can I bridge to this person? Because it looks like there’s no bridge possible when they say no, that’s what you know. And that can lead to a lot of frustration, I don’t have to buy that conclusion. I can just say, All right, sounds powerful here. Let’s start with that as backup to that, and then see what we can do with it. And I don’t have to belabor over, Oh, you don’t really mean No, or something, I may be thinking that, but I don’t say that. I just say, alright, this matters a lot. Let’s get what that is, let’s make sure we understand it. And then we can see what we can do with it, I find that there’s usually people don’t want to be isolated. I mean, they have something that maybe really matters to them. However, there’s often ways to get to it, that are honoring that the person hasn’t thought of yet, in their, in their, you know, their resistance. They’re not doing creative thinking when they’re in a resistant mode. So you have to, and they and they’re going to relax more. If I show interest. I mean, and I mean it genuinely I’m not faking it. I really do want to know their answer to like, alright, we touched a nerve here, what was it, let’s make sure we got it. And then that, that gives me something to work with. Or it could be, it could be another way this could play out ties in to what I’d said earlier, of like, if it feels like the group has moved to try to hold that person, I can point out, there’s stretching going on, to reach toward you, I need you now to stretch to reach toward it has to go from both, we’d need to meet in the middle here somewhere. I don’t know exactly where the middle is. But it can’t be all in one direction. So it’s like if can you see how people are stretching beyond what they would think is a comfortable solution to try to hold you. And I would point out what those things are. And if the person recognizes that it’s happening, I need to see something in return. I don’t care what give me something, you know. And so I may it might look like something like that. I might labor with that, too. It just I mean, it’s situational. I don’t want to give a one size fits all answer. But there is a way in which is common for people to be results oriented. When they’re in a meeting and they’re thinking bottom line, where is this going to go? I will not I’m not going to do this thing. I mean, this is an unacceptable answer. And they may say that right at the beginning of the conversation, they think this is my nightmare. This won’t work for me. And that’s the conclusion. I say, we haven’t even flushed out the problem yet. Let’s like well hold that. I guarantee you. We’re not going to leave you behind. But let’s not start there. Let’s start with what matters to you. And let’s hear from other people. And then we’ll see what we can put together. So I will in other words, I will try it. If it if that no happens early. I’ll just say, All right, we’re onto something important for you. Let’s get what that is. But let’s I mean, we’re not at the proposal stage yet. So like let’s, let’s not talk concern in terms of what that’s going to look like too soon.
Rebecca Mesritz 49:48
All right. Yeah, I really am noticing that for you. A big key here is really coming back to that place of curiosity. That is, you know, I wanted to ask you about tips and tricks, but it feels like that’s the, that’s the big one is like, just try to stay curious, try to just like ask like what’s okay, I hear you like, and then giving that that deeper reflective listening that actually maybe even repeats back what they’ve heard from that person to like settle their nervous system and let them know, okay, we’re here with you, we hear you we understand where you’re coming from, and like, meeting people in that place as opposed to, well, clearly you’re emotional right now. And so that’s not valid, or that kind of, you know, sorry, you shouldn’t go deal with that. On your own. We’re trying to get up have a meeting here.
Laird Schaub 50:47
Right. Yeah, I don’t think that works. So I’ve, and I think it’s important for the facilitator to be pretty centered. But by which I mean, when I’m really on, I mean, when I’m doing my best work, my ego doesn’t exist. I mean, it’s kind of like I am just a present. And it’s like, I’d never mind what I think that doesn’t even matter. I’m just trying to hold what’s going on in the room, and it’s just flowing all around me. And I’m trying to think, what do we know now? What do we not know? What, you know, hasn’t been said, what hasn’t? How do we put this together, and that’s, I’m in that all the time. So like, one of the challenges for me, going back to what we were talking about before with aging is like to operate at the level I do, I have to be very cognitively deft, I mean, I’ve got to be able to work accurately, with a lot of information quickly. I mean, I tell people, the difference between a good facilitator and a great facilitator is about 10 seconds, don’t tell me what a great idea you had later, you got to be able to do it now. And, and so I have to be able to perform at a pretty high level. And I’m, I’m 72 years old, and I have to think I can’t count on always being able to, you know, I have to be able to somebody’s got to tell me when I’m losing it here, because I don’t want to be out there putting myself into that arena when it’s no longer appropriate. So far I can, it’s a blessing. And it’s, in fact, I think it’s part of why I can, you know, it’s use it or lose it on some level when you when you operate at that level and practice your craft, you retain it longer. So I’m very fortunate that way. But there will come a time when they won’t be there anymore, and I need to stop doing it. But because I you really need to be working lightly with a lot of stuff and hold on, I mean, I’ll be able to remember what somebody said two days before and bring it back into the meeting at the right time, not not even knowing that it’s important until it arises. And it’s I mean, I can work at that level. But that’s because I’ve done this a lot, you needed to say, Rebecca, I have facilities, you know, this concept from Malcolm Gladwell of 10,000 hours at a craft to develop, to get into a certain zone with it. I don’t know, literally how many hours, but I probably have been in by 10,000 hours of meetings. And it’s like, you reach a level where you just are in a zone where suddenly things slow down and are easier for you. Just because you’ve done it a lot. I mean, you’ve worked with whatever that thing is, it’s something you’re good at, just because you put in the time. And that and I’ve gotten to that place. And so now the question is really more focused on how do I teach others to get there? So they can do it a little quicker than I did?
Rebecca Mesritz 53:29
Yeah. For someone who’s feeling called to facilitation and feels like they might have some because it sounds like there’s a bit of natural ability, natural desire. And also, yeah, there is a certain amount of like mental organization and cognitive function that’s necessary to hold all of the people and all of the energies. And I’m wondering, what is the? How would I mean, aside from taking a class, like are there other ways to cultivate oneself to be able to do that in a good way?
Laird Schaub 54:07
Well, you want to be with others who are skilled, so that you, they become peers, and mentors, you know, you help each other. You if you’re, if you’re the only one who gets it, what’s going on, it’s hard to grow. Because you you only have yourself, it’s a lot slower when it’s only in you. So it’s important to have contact with people who are in that journey together. And it can be very beneficial to let’s go back to the framing, I’d said about working with content or working with energy. It’s common for somebody to be more skilled at one side than the other. And or, and so it’s good to pair up with somebody who’s got complementary skills. And then the two of you form a strong hole. You just hit you have an issue around how do you collaborate and how do you hand off but that’s a doable, solvable issue. So it doesn’t have to be one person. Gets it all that’s, I mean, I’ve gotten to To the place where I can perform at that level. And I can teach it and try to help somebody wherever they are, get stronger, but you don’t have to wait. You know, until your weak part is strong to be active in the field, you can pair up with somebody who will cover for your, your weaker side so that together, you’ve your team, that that can work really well. And then you have the benefit of, it’s really good to take time to to reflect on what just happened with people who are have some degree of sophistication to understand this, there’s usually only about two or three really tricky points in a meeting, where you really pivotal moments where if the right thing happens, it really makes a difference. And, and that and so you want to be able to break down those moments with people who also understand what that what that moment was, and could talk to you about. Like, I wonder if you might have done this differently. And that’s how you grow is that that bouncing back and forth? And reflecting on on those moments? It’s very hard to do that solo.
Rebecca Mesritz 56:04
Yeah, the feedback loops. I know you’re not a big sociocracy fan. But part of one of the things that I do appreciate about the socio kradic meeting process is at the end of the meeting, you do a review, like how did this meeting go. And when I was facilitating meetings I would get? Well, it felt like this was a little rushed. And it felt like this could have been better. But this also went really well. And just hearing from the people that you’re actually holding it the same to you know, like, how did it How was it received on on their end? Gave me a lot of Yeah, food for thought.
Laird Schaub 56:38
I absolutely agree. And I, I want to I totally am in alignment with with sociocracy. About that. I mean, my position there very briefly as there’s nothing peculiar to sociocracy that I consider a best practice. But a strong emphasis on evaluation is not unique to sociocracy. And I totally support that.
Rebecca Mesritz 56:59
As you are developing or cultivating yourself or as one is developing or cultivating oneself to be a facilitator. Are there certain kind of red flags? Or things that you’re like? Don’t do that or be aware, you know, if this comes up in a meeting, this is one of those times that maybe you want to invite everybody to take a breath? Or like what are those? What are those moments that you see are kind of ripe for disaster?
Laird Schaub 57:31
Well, I’ll give you a couple that come bubble up right away. When you asked that question. One of them is sliding from the facilitator role into a consultant role. Without portfolio, you’ve been asked to run the meeting. But you think you have you have a device? And it’s like you aren’t? I mean, you could be asked for that. That’s okay. But that should be clear to ahead of time going into that zone. Is a misuse, even an abuse of the facilitator role, because now you’re starting to steer, which is not I mean, unless you’ve been asked for your advice, which Knapp? And that’s a no, no, because you’re compromising your neutrality when you do it. And it makes it very difficult then to hold people who, who don’t like your advice, that all of a sudden, now I don’t have a neutral facilitator, and I was supposed to, alright, so there’s that danger. The other one is being aware of when you’re triggered, you know, when you’re in reaction so that you’re not acting out of your reaction? You know, you’d be able to know when you’re in reaction, and what you can do, can you release it? Or do you need to step down or, you know, there’s, it can happen, I’m not saying what the right thing to do is, but you got to know what’s happening. If you don’t know what’s happening. Now, that’s dangerous.
Rebecca Mesritz 58:47
I’m imagining in this scenario, the facilitator is not a part of the circle, or, I mean, it’s just because I’m picturing like, a group again, you know, you’ve got five or 10 co founders, and you’re all sitting around. And, you know, Frank is the facilitator for that meeting. But Frank also has a vested interest in the happenings of that meeting, you know, he’s a, he’s infected and implicated.
Laird Schaub 59:13
So let’s talk about that, because that was actually very much the case in my community. And we were a small number so and we we would almost always, except for retreats that have are very exceptional moments, we would sell facilitate that, as somebody in the group would facilitate. And that was a significant fraction of the of the group, you know, one six or one eight. So we developed the norm in in that set setting of habit of expecting that the facilitator would get a chance to say their views on something, but they tried to be very circumspect about I’m now speaking as a member rather than as the facilitator. And so that people, you know, there was a dance and it wasn’t overly structured. But that’s Still distinct from when the if the facilitator is in reaction, they’re not really suitable to be running the meeting. And they need to step down. Even if there’s nobody in place to take their place, and the group’s got to figure out what to do, but I just I think there’s all kinds of mischief that will flow from somebody who’s either pretending to not be in reaction when they are or isn’t aware of it, and starts acting out from that place and doesn’t know what they’re doing. So I’m, so I’m not saying you can’t, you can’t add contribution to the topic. However, there’s, there’s a context and you still want to be mindful of it. Because the model here is different from a mainstream model where the person that runs the meeting is often the chair or the president. And they’re a stakeholder and they’re often driving the agenda is they’re not neutral. And it’s like in however, in a cooperative setting up the model is you want neutral facilitation, something that approximates it, which means not even, it’s not that they don’t care, it’s like they’re open to whatever happens and trust the group. And I’m, I’m okay being in the role of, I’m going to be serving the group best by being neutral here and letting other people carry this conversation. And I’ll help manage the conversation, that that’s my contribution.
Rebecca Mesritz 1:01:18
My own little Rebecca heart is just like, oh, because I’m, I’m such an opinionated person.
Like, I mean, definitely in the early days of my facilitation, and I like to think that I improved. Over time, I was told that I improved over time, which was good, but I know that I wasn’t always a neutral facilitator, as I’m listening to you, and reflecting thinking about the times that maybe I did have an agenda or times that I felt like I was really neutral, and other people didn’t experience me as neutral, which was even harder, because there was something happening on a level that I wasn’t actually tracking in my own self awareness, which is like, Oh, ouch, that’s, that’s real bad. That’s real bad. And, you know, is there hope for someone like me, who has strong opinions about?
Laird Schaub 1:02:19
Well, I’ll give you Sure. There’s always I mean, first of all, I mean, just from our conversation, I feel like you care a lot about personal growth, and trying to understand the ways in which you’ve got blind sides. And you know, what those layers of assumption or prejudice are that we haven’t really examined. And though you’re never really done with that work, I mean, that’s just like, that’s lifetime work. You peel back layers, there’s always another one. So you’re oriented toward that. So that’s good, that’ll that’ll help you. The other thing, that’s a key here that you can look for is look for opportunities to demonstrate your openness. That’s particularly important. So when you can show that you’re really accurately hearing somebody whose views you’re known to dislike. That’s very good on the group. You know, I mean, not a fake. I’m just saying, let me make sure I got what you’re saying, you know, you haven’t said I agree with you. I’m just saying, I want to honor, you’re in a group, you’re saying. So I’m on topic, I make sure I’m getting, you know, rather than in other words, reflecting rather than responding, when you’ve got that dynamic, will help enormously in people trusting you to feel like, alright, Rebecca really is working is she’s doing her work. And she’s trying to is trying to make sure that she’s not inadvertently running somebody over looking like she’s neutral, but steering things their way. Ah, I had a touch a story about this. For me, I have the same issue that you just mentioned, at home in my community where I was rarely wanted as a facilitator, because it was like, That’s Lyrids Briarpatch, we throw him in there, he’s got even more power, you know, it’s like, so it’s like, we don’t really want him facilitating. And so and I wasn’t seen as neutral automatically, even when I didn’t think there was going to be a problem with me. And it’s like, okay, so I didn’t do it. But there was this one moment where we had an intern coming in for the summer. And I was I, they arrived one day, and I was there for like, 12 hours overlapping with them, learn their name. And then I went on a trip for like three weeks on doing away. So I wasn’t there. I come back. And there’s a tension point with this intern that surfaced while I was gone, and we needed to have a community meeting, and I was allowed to run the meeting, because people realize he hasn’t been here long enough to I mean, he doesn’t know anything about what happened because he was gone. And it was like it was such a delight. It’s like I can do this. I understand that I handled this moment and you know, and people let me do it because it was one of those rare occasions where that you know, I just had no no background that was relevant to the to the time And they could trust that I could handle it. And I was like, Oh, that’s so refreshing. Let me do it. And it was rare.
Rebecca Mesritz 1:05:08
One of the things that I most like about this particular conversation is it feels like it extends beyond just community. Be even beyond cooperative culture, it is really, you know, how do you facilitate in your life? Well, listen, reflect, oh, yeah, take a moment, take a deep breath, you know, like, this is just this is really just us maturing as humans, you know, this is what emotional maturity and spiritual maturity actually looks like. And it’s really beautiful. I do I do here,
Laird Schaub 1:05:42
I do the two year facilitation training, where I get a cadre of students get to work with them intensively over a two year period. It’s the most fun thing I do. And in the context is, we’re always looking at meetings of the whole, a cooperative, meet cooperative group, meeting of the low, what’s going on how to understand it, there’s a lot of moving parts, how to make good choices, what’s your skill set, all that kind of stuff. So we’re constantly going through that lens. But at some point in the training I revealed to them, you know, we’re focusing on this, and meetings of the whole are a very tiny fraction of your life. But the real secret is, you know, what we’re talking about here, we’re talking about every moment you’re alive. Not just what happens in the meeting. That’s just the most complex version of it.
Rebecca Mesritz 1:06:31
So, so rich, I love it. Well, you know, I think as we wrap up our time, I just have one more question for you, which is really just, you know, obviously, you’ve got lots of experience and training and facilitating. And I’m curious to know, what, what are the patterns of success look like? You know, when you see either facilitators or groups that are managing those meeting processes, well, or facilitators who are managing those processes as well? Are there any other things that stand out for you, aside from that, the listening, the listening piece,
Laird Schaub 1:07:15
the markers of success, I think, are are ones where people come out of the meeting and the meeting, maybe they were dreading because they thought, Oh, this is not going to go? Well. I mean, this is a tough issue. They, they know, it’s not an easy one, and then they come out of out of it. Oh, my God, I feel so good about where we got to, and I didn’t even see this possibility going in that you get moments like that. And as you live for those, you don’t feel like you succeeded in, you know, creating the right container, I guess I’ve used that phrase. And so they they found their way to it. Um, I had one of those just in the last year where a group was a forming group wanted to talk about smoking policy, for they hadn’t they hadn’t built the homes yet, but they’re thinking ahead to what they’re going to do. And, and, you know, it’s kind of like the dog issue we talked about earlier, where like, okay, smoking triggers different things in different people. And some of its positive. It’s not just so anyway, it was a mixed story. And then it gets into individual rights and different things, and so on. And when at what point is, you know, the, do we are individuals obliged to take into account the impact on others, because in the mainstream, you know, what you do in your home, you’re not obliged to have that conversation, whereas in community is different matter. So the all this was that, oh, this is a nightmare. What do we do? So we did this, you know, the sequence I was talking about, let’s start with, are there stories about smoking that you want to share, and there was pretty rich, this go and that took an hour to go through that. And then but then they were able to find a zone where people had heard each other because it wasn’t like a demand. It was just like, This is my story. This is what you know, my parents died of emphysema, I, it took me 15 years to learn to quit, and I hate smoking. And other people said, I was touched by being involved with Native American Tobacco rituals is a very positive thing. And another person said, I moved here across country to be in this location to be near my parents, because I want them to know their grandchildren. And they both smoke, and it’ll be crushing for me if they’re not allowed on campus to see their grandchildren. So I mean, so it was mix, you know, so in other words, is messy. And, and, and we, we stayed with it, but by big cube and getting those stories out, not as demands, but just as this is how it touches me. Everybody remembered that as we move through, and we were able to stay in the zone of how do we build something that holds the whole and then in the end, these two women came up to me afterwards and said, You know, I didn’t think there was a snowball. We, we disagreed, and we knew we disagreed, and we thought, who’s gonna win? You know, that was the way we came into this. And now we we both feel really good about where we came to. And we are amazed that that happened. And that’s, you live for those moments when when you get that kind of result. And it’s just, it’s allowing the chance for the humanity to show through, it’s in us if we can access it, and not fall into the trigger of the fight. And so that’s, I don’t know if that story illuminates it. But that’s what, that’s what I think of when I think about like, what what, what are we trying to get to what do we try to teach and inspire? Really the best stuff, Rebecca, is when the things you can do at a subtle level where people don’t even know what you did. It’s kind of like, oh, that meeting went well. And they don’t even know maybe the key moments where you change the wording of the way you phrase something. So we stayed in a collaborative zone, it didn’t fall into the pit. And, you know, it’s like, it’s your you’re wanting it to not be about you. That’s, that’s a, that’s another you mentioned traps that I mentioned to have, that would be another one. If you need to shine. That’s the wrong motivation. You want to help, but you want to be servant, not the star.
Rebecca Mesritz 1:11:09
Wow, their child. Thank you so so much for coming here and sharing all your wisdom on this. It’s been such a delight to hear all this from you. I really appreciate your time. You’re welcome. I hope you’ve enjoyed this conversation with Laird shalbe. If you feel like you could learn more from Laird and let’s face it, you probably can. He has many upcoming courses being offered through the fic. He has one on conflict, he has a couple on consensus, he has one on facilitation. And he also has one on membership, which I’ve actually taken and it was wonderful, I highly recommend it. If you go to the show notes, I’m going to have a coupon code for all those classes. And I’ll have links there as well. Laird also runs a two year facilitation training program, which is not just for people interested in community, but it’s for anyone who is working with collaborative groups who wants to be better, more graceful, more skilled at holding those groups through decisions. I also would like to recommend Laird’s blog, you can find his blog and learn more about his views on life and living in community at community and consensus.blogspot.com. And I will of course have a link to that in the show notes as well. If you are enjoying this podcast, I hope you will take a moment and consider visiting i see.org/podcast. And donating to the show. I really do rely on your support to continue to be able to create this content. And I really, really love doing it. I love getting to interview people like Laird and I hope that if it’s within your means, you’ll consider making a contribution so we can keep this coming to you. If you’d like to stay in touch with me and the show. You can find me at Inside Community podcast on Instagram. And I also just launched a Tik Tok channel so you can find me on Tik Tok and inside community. Thank you so much for coming along on this ride with me friends and I look forward to seeing you next time.
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About the Show
The Inside Community Podcast brings folks along for an inside look at all of the beautiful and messy realities of creating and sustaining a community. We provide useful and inspiring content to support people on their quest for resilience, sustainability, and connection.
Meet Your Host
Inside Community Podcast host Rebecca Mesritz is a community builder living in Williams, Oregon. In 2011, Rebecca co-founded the Emerald Village (EVO) in North County San Diego, California. During her ten years with EVO, she supported and led numerous programs and initiatives including implementation and training of the community in Sociocracy, establishment of the Animal Husbandry program, leadership of the Land Circle, hosting numerous internal and external community events, and participation in the Human Relations Circle which holds the relational, spiritual and emotional container for their work.
In June of 2021, with the blessing of EVO, Rebecca and 3 other co-founders relocated to begin a new, mission- driven community and learning center housed on 160 acres of forest and farmland. Rebecca is passionate about communal living and sees intentional community as a tool for both personal and cultural transformation. In addition to her work in this field, she also holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from San Diego State University and creates functional, public, and interactive art in metal, wood, and pretty much any other material she can get her hands on. She is a mother, a wife, an educator, a nurturer of gardens, an epicurean lover of sustainable wholesome food, and a cultivator of compassion and beauty.
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