Learning how to deal with challenging encounters

By Amir and Saya – Welcome Dinner Project facilitators in Victoria

As Welcome Dinner Project facilitators, we all have a keen interest in learning and honing skills for wonderful events.

We are well looked after, with a calendar of interesting and valuable training for volunteers. The latest was a chance to attend a short course on challenging encounters run by The Groupwork Institute – a fantastic opportunity.

Excited and hopeful, the two of us registered our interest and the next week we met on our way to the course. It meant a lot to have a friend to arrive with, and along the way we chatted, able to step into a new group as old friends.

Challenging Encounters…. even with plenty of faith in group work, it’s always a little nerve wracking to know that you’ll be among new people and sharing your experiences as well as blocks in challenging encounters. What will happen?!

But of course, there was no need to worry, as we formed a close group and felt welcomed and safe to share our stories. Even the introductions were a creative way of expressing ourselves!

We covered an extensive range of very applicable skills and techniques, with excellent resources to take away. Best of all, we had to face the challenges – to take a deep breath and practice scenarios to really address these encounters with care, compassion as well as courage.

Some learnings were based on ‘micro skills’ such as listening, validating and new approaches, while other areas were self awareness, self care and clarity of purpose. We found the course exceptionally helpful, and will keep in contact with both the facilitators and other students as we test out the techniques and share feedback.

It was amazing to see the differences in a very short time, across the group in confidence and capacity to tackle those conversations that need attention.

Of course, it was fairly intensive, but we had beautiful nourishing food to share, new friends to learn more about and a chance to introduce them to the Welcome Dinner Project.

We also took the chance at lunchtimes to walk along the nearby track, discovering the local birds, flowering gum trees and spring weather – missing the rain showers each time!

By better understanding ourselves and our reactions in these challenging moments, suspending judgment and allowing compassion for those who may seem difficult, we learnt how to gently but firmly hold conversations that will progress better outcomes for ourselves and others.

Amir immediately took this experience to a new level, addressing misunderstandings and creating a stronger and better work place with his learnings.

For the Welcome Dinner Project, this was a very generous gift from The Groupwork Institute, and we see that it will be useful at any and all events, particularly for our facilitation roles.

We made new friends and networks, and left with confidence and new skills to tackle whatever may come up at work, with family or at a dinner – thank you!

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