Being the Calm in the Storm

By Jessica Delaney, Principal, Engagement + Communications

I recently saw this image on social media right around the time my six year old was having a meltdown. Being a parent is the hardest job I have ever had. Anyone else? It’s hard for me to stay calm when I want to give into the meltdown and have one myself. I can actively feel myself trying to resist the temptation and so too it can be with facilitation and engagement.

Perhaps it is being a parent that now makes me fully realize that I am of most use to my clients if I can be the calm in their storm. Similar to how I try and find a fixed point to look at during yoga when I am trying my tree pose, so too must we look at a fixed point during a particularly difficult engagement process.

Clients are often very invested in a project outcome and attacks can feel personal, delays can feel like very professional failures, and the pressure can be intense. So, here are three ways I try to help clients pull themselves out of the storm:

  • You are not what people say or think about you (or your project); you are your response.
  • You can only control yourself and sometimes that’s hard enough.
  • You matter in this process and so treat yourself like you do.

Doing dozens of open houses back-to-back; sifting through thousands of comment cards; and engaging one-on-one with dozens and dozens of people in workshops over weeks… it’s all a bit exhausting and it can be made worse when people are oppositional, entrenched and angry. But the process will end, and we will have a chance to look back and see how we managed our self; how we resisted the temptation to lean into anger, judgement and fear; and we can be proud of our response. Find your strategy to pull yourself out of your own storm.