A fiery soul with eyes that speak volumes took me aside at a large session I was facilitating recently. She shared with me her history of overcoming trauma and abuse and her personal mission to inspire others, and above all to speak up.  

She told me she really appreciated my work. For that reason, she wanted to denounce a habit I was exhibiting, which is prevalent in women: the small and big ways we put ourselves down in public arenas. In my case, it was self-deprecating humor.  

Not at all what I was expecting….

I got defensive and explained that humor was a good way to remove barriers with an audience, much like a stand-up comic, and that this humor was really harmless as it puts people at ease. “B.S!” She bluntly countered. “It puts you down. There’s no need for you to do that with your presence. It erodes the respect you should command.”

We continued talking.  She wondered out loud if joking was my way of defusing challenging power dynamics to come across as non-threatening. Now that really threw me for a loop.

“But as the neutral facilitator, isn’t that my role?” I asked.

Standing in my authentic self.

I love bringing humor to the sessions I facilitate. It helps place people at their creative best, right? Up to this point, I wasn’t aware of the subtle cues I may be sending.

She invited me for the rest of the session to leave behind the caretaker role and fill my shoes as the strong convener and catalyst I was meant to be. She encouraged me to keep naming the elephant in the room. She dared me to hold a bigger space for participants to step into. She knew this could create extraordinary outcomes. It did. As I freed myself up to be at my most powerful and creative, so did the participants.  

Moving forward, I am taking her challenge seriously. I will always use humor, but will think twice about the type of humor I tend to choose and the message it could be sending.

My challenge to you is to think of ways in which you can up your game in your own profession? How do you show up as your most powerful self?

> How do you show your strength and draw out the strength of others?

> Who are you capable of becoming as you step into your power?

> What bigger purpose can you then serve?

Post your thoughts in the comment box below.

I look forward to hearing back from you!

2 thoughts on “Calling a Spade a Spade”

  1. It was if I was reading about myself here and using the arguments that you put forth Dominique to defend why I use humour to defuse certain uncomfortable situations in the workplace.

    It will be an interesting journey to see how one’s habits of many years can be transformed into a more positive, non self-depreciating approach, to diffuse power struggle situations. Especially between the sexes. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Dominique Dennery

      Great points Barbara! I really appreciate your input. I have been facilitating groups of women leaders across Canada for a federal project this month and realize that although there are strong power dynamics at play, I use humour in different ways to brake the tension or help participants keep their minds open to opposing viewpoints. No self-deprecation surfacing at all. I will keep reflecting on how I show up as a female facilitator in a mixed or male dominated audience where my authority may be challenged in subtle and less subtle ways. Very interesting….

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