Interpersonal communication

Communicating clearly may seem a simple concept but it doesn’t always happen, particularly among the other distractions of an outdoor trip. It starts with one person being clear about what it is they want to communicate, again a seemingly simple idea which doesn’t always happen and finally this needs to be matched by attentive listening.

If a group member is speaking to you as the leader, especially when it involves an important issue, you need to give them your full attention. If necessary go somewhere that is less distracting and make the person your centre of focus for that time. Good one-to-one communication is based on attentive listening, and minimising any barriers, both physical and psychological.

When issues, especially controversial ones, are being sorted out in the group, then civility and focus can be abandoned. As the leader/facilitator, it is important to ensure that each person is heard and group members don’t talk over each other. If necessary, ask for a commitment from group members that they will hear each other out.

An effective facilitator is able not only to communicate well but also to engage the group. Techniques such as use of names, open-ended questioning and drawing out their input will help. A valuable aim as leader is to help each group member feel they are a valued member of the group, and that they do make a difference.

As leader, it is easy to get attached to a particular outcome for the trip and probably specific outcomes for each discussion and difference of opinion. If you are not careful, this can easily become an inappropriate attachment. Clearly, the needs and desires of the group must be borne in mind at all times. It is likely that you are in the leadership role because you have greater knowledge of the route, or you have more experience or you have a good level of group leadership skills. However, standing on your authority is not likely to produce a mutually satisfying outcome for the whole group. A good leader/facilitator is the one who can bring the group to a mutually satisfying outcome of the trip in a way that most group members felt was a process in which they had adequate input. They need to feel as much as possible that it was a group process, not just the leader or some other member imposing their view.