The Power of One Word

Earlier this week, Libby and I taught a course on facilitation for the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). It was a great group of engaged and thoughtful participants. If you’ve read any of my posts, you know my favorite part of all the sessions I do are the gems from the attendees – the power that comes from a group of people willing to share their thoughts and experience is truly amazing. And this session was no exception. While we were sharing tips and tricks, one of the attendees shared her one word exercise. It’s simple and can be used at any point during a meeting: each attendee shares one word to sum up their thoughts. It can be a feeling about where the project is, an item to suggest for the next agenda, a thought on the how the meeting went…you get the idea.

I love this tool. I used to volunteer for a suicide hotline and in the training of new listeners (that’s what the hotline volunteers were called), we focused heavily on empathy and feelings, and this was one of the tools we used. At the end of each training session (and some of them were pretty intense, as you can imagine), each listener had to share one feeling word to sum up where they were in the process. We heard a lot of nervous, anxious, apprehensive, excited, overwhelmed and so on. It helped us as trainers get a sense of where the trainees were in their journey, and it also helped us all practice using feeling words. Having to select only one word really made us all focus. We all had a lot of reactions, thoughts and feelings during a session, but being forced to narrow it down to one word really made you think. Very often, I was energized by the team in the room and the commitment they’d made to be there. I was hopeful for our community, given the number of people who chose to spend their time this way. And I was grateful to be a part of it all.

Bring reminded of that exercise earlier this week has reinvigorated me and put me into a different head space. What’s the one word I want to describe my day today? This meeting? This interaction? How do I want to feel about where I’m at? How I’ve spent my time? And what can I do to influence the one word people would say about their interaction with me? These are powerful questions and I encourage you to take the one word challenge. What do you want your one word to be?

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