12 Ways to Build Relationship

I have been reflecting on the nature of independent facilitation and how to be most effective as a facilitator. This led me to further explore the idea that how we do the work matters and that our ability to positively impact someone’s life is often a reflection of our relationship with them.

In our personal lives outside of independent facilitation, I think the relationships we generally try to have are authentic, genuine, and meaningful. When we are supporting a close friend, a partner, or a family member, we aren’t formal, distant, and structured in the way we offer support.  If we are trying to do something to help uncover meaning in other people’s lives, how can we do so without having a strong relationship?

Understanding the importance of relationship lead to this question developing: If independent facilitation was a house, what can we do so that the relationship between the facilitator and the person is the strong foundation of the home?

Twelve ideas emerged for me:

  1. Be inquisitive. Be curious and ask questions. Try to learn something new from the person, their family, and their network. New relationships, connections, and potential resources, can all come to light through passing conversation.
  2. Do what they love. Find out what and where they feel like they can truly be themselves and work that into the conversations.
  3. Be patient. It takes time to build trust and familiarity. When I look back to when I first started with a family versus a year later, trust and openness took time.
  4. Flexibility! Facilitators should expect that things will not always go as planned, especially as they take direction from people and families. When I was first getting to know someone, I tried asking questions in different ways to get a sense for what the person wanted and what gave him meaning for his future. One day we were driving somewhere and he kept pointing at a store that we passed by on the highway. We went inside, and, without any explanation, he took me to the candy aisle and started organizing all the products in the aisle so they were neat and orderly. Being flexible allowed for me to learn what it is he wanted to share with me.
  5. If something isn’t working, try something new. Facilitation will not look the same for all people. When I was first getting to know one person, I tried talking to them at their home, going out to chat, drawing, watching videos, but nothing felt like it was working. It wasn’t until we went for a scenic drive and we weren’t sitting face to face but instead side by side that the person felt comfortable enough to open up and start to build a relationship with me.
  6. Be genuine. As human beings, we are all smart and have strong perception. Be authentic with your words and actions.
  7. Their comfort is the priority. Make sure the environment you are in is where they are in their element, their happy place. If someone is feeling uncomfortable or anxious with their environment on top of meeting you, it might be difficult to connect.
  8. Be thoughtful. Do something special for their happy birthday, send them a high school graduation card in the mail. If they are feeling down or anxious one day, see how you can be there for them.
  9. Hear what they have to say with an open mind and open heart. Have a humble posture of learning. Approach them without any assumptions or judgements.
  10. Share pieces of yourself.  Maybe it’s your humour, or it’s a story that relates to what they are going through. If someone is planning on moving out of their parent’s home and getting ready to live on their own, maybe you can share what it was like for you when you first moved out too.
  11. Consistency.  Show them through your actions that your word is solid. There may have been a lot of people in their life that have come and gone or made false promises. Show them that you are different.
  12. Smile.  Be a ray of sunshine in their life. Everyone loves a smile, it can go a long way 😊


Kimiya Missaghi is an Independent Facilitator in the Ottawa area at Citizen Advocacy. Creating inclusive communities and empowering others to build their capacities is something that is important to Kimiya. She feels grateful to help build and contribute to a community of facilitators to share diverse ideas across the province.

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