John Wayne and Graphic Facilitation

One of the things that’s convincing me about the power of graphic facilitation is the responses from men.   Where I come from, they used to call the old farm “Bonanza” and John Wayne was everyone’s ultimate hero.  As my friend’s father used to say, whenever we started talking about anything, “There’s altogether too much talking in the world.”   Not a place where men spent a lot of time talking about their feelings.   And there’s some really good research in the field of disability studies around Dads (and brothers) who often feel really challenged by having to talk about what’s going on for them and their families around their family member with a disability.  The kinds of situations they find themselves in – great rooms of Social Workery types wanting to process around a table end up making them feel left out.  One of my favourite dads used to show up for meetings with his toolbox.   Everyone else had a file folder, and a date book, but he was ready to fix things.   Yet if I followed him outside to help paint the steps or nail down a patio floorboard, he had the best ideas of anyone.

So I’ve been really interested in how graphic facilitation lends itself to these folks being able to relate to pictures, when words are difficult.   Often they start to talk, to shape what the picture looks like, and clarify what they think and feel as it becomes more concrete on the page.   I’ve noticed their wives and children stop and stare in amazement.   In one of our recent sessions with families it led to a great conversation and afterwards the wife told me that in more than a decade he’d never been able to say the things that he’d said.   Even more telling, the fellow, who’d walked in and told me he was just there to observe and then spent the first hour looking at his watch, came up as he left to say he was looking forward to the next meeting.  “I thought this was just going to be another one of those endless meetings – talk talk talk – but I feel like I know what I have to do now.”

So many of our new methods of communication together are about having what’s been nicely called “conversations that matter” – in small groups, with lots of opportunities for interaction, with an assumption that “the answer is in the room” rather than about to be delivered from the podium.   Graphic facilitation adds to this possibility so that folks who haven’t talked much before can speak more easily about that they can now see in more concrete ways.   These are a few not very good photos (must remember to bring good camera) of a PATH that Shelley Nessman and I did recently where the focal person spoke more than I’ve ever heard him speak, about what matters to him.   I went into it thinking that it wasn’t going to be a method that worked for him at all, and came out having learned lots!  I’ve edited out all the names for privacy.

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To learn more about our research, training and development projects check out or or  or leave a comment below.   PATH is a person centred planning process created by the folks at and Shelley and I will be doing a week long training, tentatively in August, that will be announced in the 101 friends newsletter.

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