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Listening to your music, with Sara Huang
Episode 1327th November 2022 • I'm Back! • Serena Savini
00:00:00 00:28:18

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Serena talks with Sara Huang, Heart ♥️ based consultant & human-centered facilitator, about using facilitation skills to support people who are coming back to work, the importance of creativity and music in finding your way back and how can we deal with power dynamics in a more caring way.

You can discover more about Sara here:

Transcripts

Sara:

you're not alone.

Sara:

Even though I don't know you, who you're listening the one that listening to

Sara:

this podcast that I feel for you, I hope that you will have soothing moments

Sara:

every day to experience that light within and that you'll have to support

Sara:

around you to yeah, do the great things that you'll do cuz you're awesome.

Serena:

When it comes to I'm back.

Serena:

Today, we are going to talk with Sarah.

Serena:

Heart-based consultant and human centered facilitator and also creative genius.

Serena:

We are going to discuss about how can we use facilitation skills.

Serena:

In welcoming back in, please.

Serena:

We are going to discuss also about power dynamics in the workplace.

Serena:

And what is the difference between feeling welcomed and feeling invited?

Serena:

Thank you so much, Sarah, for being here.

Serena:

Let's start with the first question.

Serena:

. What does it takes to be present?

Sara:

so yeah,

Sara:

, what does it take to be present, especially doing something maybe

Sara:

you've done a zillion times and say you still curious and that

Sara:

is the good part of curious.

Sara:

But what if we chit chat before when something's really demanding

Sara:

how to stay, like present.

Sara:

what is my capacity right now?

Sara:

What do I.

Sara:

capacity to do for what's my boundary and how can I be back

Sara:

enough to do what's needed.

Sara:

I will say, just leave me and I'll see what happens.

Sara:

Yes.

Serena:

What means I'm back for you?

Sara:

I'm laughing because I think my first association is this funny scene

Sara:

of, I think it's Jack Nicholson in The Shining or so, and there's this I'm back.

Sara:

So I think I'm back and have different angles in a way.

Sara:

It can be back from a space having a great vacation and then transitioning

Sara:

back to work, and while your head is still dreaming of all those

Sara:

fabulous beaches or the stories that at the experience you have had.

Sara:

That could be, I'm back, but that can also in touch you have a saying like,

Sara:

You went to hell and you came back.

Sara:

Like you, you've gone through this experience and I just had c and

Sara:

it was about time after two two years and then having this terrible

Sara:

headache and then being really affected by the virus and then.

Sara:

I remember that it's about the third or fourth day, and then it was

Sara:

like a light switch on in my head.

Sara:

I'm like, oh, I'm back.

Sara:

I myself again.

Sara:

So I'm back means transition from the one spot to the other spot.

Sara:

But, and it means for me also the difference.

Sara:

Of state between the one and the other without judging.

Sara:

Like the one is better or the other is worse, but it's

Sara:

really like the difference.

Sara:

You can really feel the difference.

Sara:

And

Serena:

what is for you, the connection between be back and be present?

Sara:

Oh, great question.

Sara:

I think being back maybe has this expectation or memory

Sara:

part of it like I'm back.

Sara:

Again, in a situation that's known to me, therefore I'm back or they're

Sara:

part of it that's known to me and being present for me personally is really

Sara:

this quality of I'm in, in somewhere and I don't have any expectations.

Sara:

Of how it should be.

Sara:

So I just follow with whatever it is and I'm being let by it.

Sara:

So I would say from like a personal.

Sara:

As an anecdote once I was back from maternity leave to the job I had then, and

Sara:

in the period of me having the maternity leave, they rearranged the whole office.

Sara:

So all the computers were gone and we had a flexible desk.

Sara:

This is back in 2012, so a long time ago.

Sara:

But I remember me being back, and of course I heard something from

Sara:

my colleagues, so I thought, okay, so there'll be a flexible desk.

Sara:

And then I saw the things and then I called the help desk and the first thing

Sara:

I said, I was like, I have no phone on my desk, cuz everyone had a mobile,

Sara:

but I was used to like, and then they said it's clean desk and flexible desk.

Sara:

So you get your laptop and your mobile and there's no more like normal phone.

Sara:

And I was like, oh, wait a minute.

Sara:

But that was my expectation because when I left to go on maternity leave,

Sara:

we had computers, we had telephone.

Sara:

So when I was back I was expecting them and because they weren't there, I was

Sara:

like angry and said, where's the phone?

Sara:

And like, get on with the program.

Sara:

We don't do that anymore, . So I think if I was present at that

Sara:

moment, I maybe would have noticed.

Sara:

Oh, it's a clean desk with nothing on it.

Sara:

Let me see what the others do.

Sara:

And ask a different question.

Sara:

So that's for me the difference between back and present.

Serena:

And you are also a facilitator.

Serena:

. So I'm wondering how are you dealing with the fact that you need to sense the

Serena:

room and create a welcoming environ.

Serena:

For everyone.

Serena:

. And you need to be present.

Serena:

. Is it difficult?

Serena:

Is it easy?

Serena:

It depends.

Sara:

I think being a facilitator in the core means making things

Sara:

easy, and for me personally, it's always about making things easy.

Sara:

For the ones who would find it most d.

Sara:

To enter in a way, cause it's like I always imagine facilitating at least the

Sara:

first new moments, like going to a party.

Sara:

If you go to a party and you were invited and you knew all the guests and you

Sara:

knew the house, and you could just like open that fridge and grab what you.

Sara:

It's very easy to just feel welcome.

Sara:

But what if you were not really invited?

Sara:

You of like tag along.

Sara:

It's in a room full of people you don't know and you don't know the house.

Sara:

Your posture is different.

Sara:

So if the host of the party.

Sara:

Would really like, Hey, welcome, this is the kitchen.

Sara:

And just grab what you want and if anything else you

Sara:

don't know, just let me know.

Sara:

And then introduce you to a few guests.

Sara:

Not just that one.

Sara:

Otherwise you have your Coca-Cola and you're like, I don't really like this

Sara:

guy, but I cannot go away because he's the only one I know from this party.

Sara:

. But you'll have options.

Sara:

And I think that also comes to my own experience.

Sara:

, I think I felt in different situations, insecure as well.

Sara:

Just as a person myself, like how do I enter this space?

Sara:

What is expected of me?

Sara:

Who are the people to talk to or not to talk to?

Sara:

When I finally found someone to talk, you can see their eyes wander

Sara:

and looking for someone else more interesting to talk to, you know, and

Sara:

all kinds of story goes on in your head.

Sara:

So I think it's the responsibility.

Sara:

As a facilitator to design or at least think about a space that's welcoming for

Sara:

the people who are least familiar with the conditions and to always have choices in

Sara:

a way, and it could be something small.

Sara:

Let's say online facilitation.

Sara:

Not just unmute yourself and say something, or only have the opportunity

Sara:

to write down your input in the chat or on the mural of the mural, but to have a mix.

Sara:

And I'm also still learning from that because I know that

Sara:

I have a lot of blind spots.

Sara:

Even when I'm intentional not having it, and the only way for me to learn

Sara:

about my blind spot is to invite for input, but also be compassionate

Sara:

of myself when I do make a mistake.

Sara:

Even today, I did something incredibly stupid, even though I knew it.

Sara:

I facilitated a session doing lunch.

Sara:

But I was so absorbed with the lunch theme that I forgot.

Sara:

It's Ramada.

Sara:

So you know the checking question.

Sara:

I have three.

Sara:

Like, why are you here?

Sara:

How would you like to feel after this session?

Sara:

And what are you eating for lunch?

Sara:

that's totally irrelevant and disrespectful for people, doing ramada.

Sara:

And I'm like, oh yeah, that was really stupid, so that being back is

Sara:

because as a facilitator I could have been totally surprised and feeling

Sara:

guilty about it at that moment.

Sara:

But then I'm like withdrawn in my own thoughts.

Sara:

Then I'm not present in the room instead of, yes, that was stupid.

Sara:

I will learn from it.

Sara:

And now why are we here today and how can we recover from that?

Serena:

And this is a great example to make a reflection on how can

Serena:

you welcome people in the room.

Serena:

When people are coming with different stories, different challenges

Serena:

and different wounds in the room.

Serena:

And the facilitation work, it's really dedicating because

Serena:

it's, and you need to be really sensitive because it's really easy.

Serena:

to trigger something.

Serena:

. So I'm curious about how can you make sure to create a welcoming environment

Serena:

for everyone when you don't know the story behind your participants?

Serena:

. Sara: I think there is like a

Serena:

So every time when creating a session, let's say you are in the privileged

Serena:

position of there is an intake so you know who's coming and you know the

Serena:

challenges from the brief in a way.

Serena:

Then there are information channels or opportunities for.

Serena:

I was a facilitator to get more information.

Serena:

So even something simple as in let's do a fun team building activity

Serena:

so everybody is connected but what does connection really mean?

Serena:

And does it has to be happy or, so really already weaving the different

Serena:

interpretation of connection.

Serena:

That is one way.

Serena:

But sometimes as facilitator I do stuff where there's for creative

Serena:

mornings, I have no idea who's coming.

Serena:

Then I try to dig in the diversity in myself in a way of what are the different.

Serena:

Possible reactions to something, a prompt in a chat or an activity.

Serena:

So that's the before you would say.

Serena:

And the during.

Serena:

That's maybe the most exciting part for me in the facilitation is that

Serena:

often things do not go as you design.

Serena:

By even introducing an activity, Just be open to the opportunity like,

Serena:

okay, this is how I have designed it.

Serena:

Maybe you'll work, maybe you will not work.

Serena:

And I'm really welcoming your input.

Serena:

Sometimes I will put a prompt in the chat and.

Serena:

Maybe people were on mute or sharing the chat what do you mean exactly?

Serena:

And then just small things like, oh, great question.

Serena:

Thank you for asking that.

Serena:

You point out a blind spot that was not known to me, but also hey, thank you for

Serena:

asking that question, because if you are wondering others in the group also wonder.

Serena:

So thank you for speaking up.

Serena:

So I think those are.

Serena:

The things to, in a way, maybe even say out loud, especially online

Serena:

because we don't know what's going on.

Serena:

But when we name things with Like an openness.

Serena:

It really opens up the room in a way.

Serena:

And that then comes back to the analogy of a party when you know,

Serena:

there's the kitchen, there's the fridge, and there's the toilets.

Serena:

Then you can have choices to like, okay, I go to this room, or go to that room.

Serena:

So creating a welcome space means thinking about the structure.

Serena:

Thinking about how different perspectives might view the structure,

Serena:

and then having space to have a conversation or a dialogue on things

Serena:

that can be changed and also clear.

Serena:

Things that cannot be changed.

Serena:

For example, in the analogy of the party, the house is the house.

Serena:

If you don't like the house, I'm really sorry, but this is where the party is.

Serena:

We can change the music.

Serena:

We can go to the garden, but if there's only one toilet, you have to wait in

Serena:

line when you have to go to the toilet.

Serena:

That's like the known non-negotiables.

Serena:

And if people feel not welcome by it then.

Serena:

Maybe they go to the garden to pee or something, that we have another

Serena:

conversation, but at least it's clear.

Serena:

You have done a lot of work on power dynamics.

Serena:

, and when I went back to work after my injury, I was feeling really powerless.

Serena:

. So I'm wondering if you have any insights to share about what means

Serena:

to being at Power Dynamics and how.

Serena:

Everyone can influence.

Serena:

The room and the space.

Serena:

With some sort of power.

Sara:

Great question.

Sara:

Thank you for that, Serena.

Sara:

So also to give credit on a lot of my teachers when it comes to power

Sara:

dynamics so Julie Diamond, who wrote power A Users Manual and also Cindy Sw.

Sara:

Who wrote the power the power Manual.

Sara:

So it's like, uh, both and a lot of other teachers on my path.

Sara:

And the greatest insight that I got from all those different teachers

Sara:

is that power is a direction.

Sara:

It gets you going.

Sara:

You could say it's like the motor of a car or so.

Sara:

So it's like human beings, it's always there, but the main narrative in

Sara:

the society, it's shape as something that we often think we do not have.

Sara:

So the other has more power or we experience being that

Sara:

the other is oppressing us.

Sara:

And I love to quote by Siwa.

Sara:

True power is graceful.

Sara:

it's like any tool like a knife.

Sara:

You can use the knife to cut people open, or you can use the knife to

Sara:

create great foods for people to enjoy.

Sara:

And it's not the knife folds.

Sara:

The knife is just is, but it depends on how you use it.

Sara:

So bring that back to when people gather even.

Sara:

When you feel that you do not have any power within the group that's,

Sara:

say you are in a department and all your colleagues are assholes,

Sara:

, and they do not let you talk.

Sara:

And they make fun of you or whatever.

Sara:

Even then by this engag.

Sara:

, you're in the group, but you decide not to go along with their

Sara:

interaction or not to say something or even just remain silent.

Sara:

Let's say you have a team meeting of 60 minutes and for 60 minute long, you

Sara:

are there, but you don't say anything.

Sara:

You're present, but you don't say anything.

Sara:

You don't react to their remarks.

Sara:

you're just silent.

Sara:

That can be very powerful.

Sara:

So there's always an opportunity to.

Sara:

not even just express, cuz sometimes express can be about like making yourself

Sara:

bigger than you are, but there's always an opportunity for a person to be in

Sara:

its power that gives itself dignity.

Sara:

And therefore not subject of the oppressive kind of power.

Sara:

And my own inspiration is also by facilitating use the power, like the

Sara:

analogy of the knife, to use the knife to create great food for us all to enjoy.

Sara:

So to use the power I have to open up the space to have the freedom for all.

Sara:

So it's an liberatory kind of power instead of everybody listens to

Sara:

me and everybody do what I say.

Sara:

And that is, I think the space that you talked about.

Sara:

In order for a person to do that it really has to come from a space of self-awareness

Sara:

in a way, because even bullies, I think the oppressive form of power is a lot

Sara:

about bullying, and I think people bully because there's something hurting.

Sara:

and they're disconnecting itself from, and then have the need to put down others

Sara:

so small part does not have to be felt.

Sara:

But if you're if you do not feel like you're put down by someone from

Sara:

the inside, then you're just light and want others to be light as.

Sara:

Oh wow.

Serena:

I'm always able to reconnect with my light when I'm with you,

Serena:

. Sara: Aww, thank

Serena:

you.

Serena:

And you are using.

Serena:

A lot of creativity in your own facilitation work.

Serena:

, you often have let's say strange ideas,

Serena:

on your facilitation.

Serena:

You are using really a lot of creativity a lot of music, a lot of

Serena:

drawings Would you like to share with us why it's so important for you?

Serena:

The creativity in the facilitation work, but in general for everyone

Serena:

to find a deeper connection with

Sara:

ourself?

Sara:

Oh, thank you.

Sara:

I think the word that really jumps out for me is that deeper and not strange no.

Sara:

It's deeper and strange.

Sara:

It can be both.

Sara:

I do have to say, looking back how I have become the Sarah I am today, there

Sara:

used be a time when I would step into a meeting room and I'll see those posted.

Sara:

I'm like, oh God, no.

Sara:

Can we just have a normal meeting?

Sara:

Or even worse when you go into meeting room and that all the tables are gone.

Sara:

There are only chairs like in a circle.

Sara:

Like, No, what kind of crap are we going to do today?

Sara:

, and I think I was maybe in my twenties or so.

Sara:

Yeah, I think that was maybe just after, after the university.

Sara:

And there was a way of the right way of doing things and

Sara:

the wrong way of doing things.

Sara:

Even just being shaped by the structure of the education.

Sara:

Like you get the grades you have full marks or not.

Sara:

And I think back then I was more occupied the stories in my head of

Sara:

almost am I getting the good grade?

Sara:

Am I behaving like the checklist?

Sara:

What it, what is supposed to be a good policy advisor, a good whatever I was

Sara:

doing then When I went to meetings, that was a lot about being creative

Sara:

and expressing different parts of you.

Sara:

That felt dangerous in a way because I was more trying to fit in.

Sara:

And and as the years went by, I realized that the quality of fitting in is.

Sara:

Indeed creating the same boxes.

Sara:

It's like production work.

Sara:

If you follow the rules like the Ikea bookshelf, you get the exact,

Sara:

if you do exactly the A to the B and you can find all the parts,

Sara:

then you get those bookshelves.

Sara:

But what if.

Sara:

For me, it's not about reproducing those bookshelves, it's about how

Sara:

can I display the books which I love in a way that gives me joy.

Sara:

That's another kind of approach not even just to how to store the books, but

Sara:

to expand it and then in order to do.

Sara:

I, as a facilitator, cannot longer produce a session plan.

Sara:

You come in, you do this, like the bookshelf of ikea.

Sara:

It's really about crafting the write or, yeah.

Sara:

Yeah.

Sara:

I would say as in the calling question that people can feel, oh, this is

Sara:

important and they want to engage.

Sara:

and then going deeper by using the creativity as a dreaming into the

Sara:

reality but also invoke other senses.

Sara:

And it's almost like in the pandemic when the whole world went into lockdown, that

Sara:

there was literally no more distraction.

Sara:

We had to be creative.

Sara:

Of so my daughter just turned 10.

Sara:

I think when she was seven.

Sara:

And then like, when the sun is shining, like now, usually

Sara:

we would go to a restaurant to go to a cafe in the lockdown.

Sara:

We could not do that.

Sara:

So it's okay, we want to go outside.

Sara:

Maybe we can connect with nature.

Sara:

So other other possibilities, emerg.

Sara:

By being creative, by thinking differently.

Sara:

And that is why I design a lot of different elements of

Sara:

those strange or weird ideas.

Sara:

And then final point about the music, especially online, but I think

Sara:

even also on site, is that music.

Sara:

Is vibration and it sings literally a story that maybe our body

Sara:

knows, but our mind do not yet.

Sara:

I designed a session for a team to connect and they were remote.

Sara:

They were Singapore, Brazil the Netherlands.

Sara:

And then the checking question was, if you would describe your time in this team

Sara:

for the past two years in three songs.

Sara:

what would it be for you and why?

Sara:

And it was a fun way for the team members to know each other.

Sara:

Guess the song and the person.

Sara:

But what was really remarkable is that those three songs between the

Sara:

teammates had same story arc, From overwhelming to what the hell is happening

Sara:

and then, oh, it's gonna be okay.

Sara:

And then from different artists, from Queen to the Arctic monkeys or whatever.

Sara:

So it also connects.

Sara:

So the vibration, the story, and then especially online.

Sara:

Why iuse music?

Sara:

Most people have their ear plugs in.

Sara:

So when you play music, It just goes straight to your senses.

Sara:

And especially in the online session where what we touch is like metal,

Sara:

your mouse your keyboard to have something in your ear a soothing music

Sara:

or a beautiful kind of music that.

Sara:

Human is made of water as well.

Sara:

Our blood, it literally vibrates and that creates a mood that will

Sara:

carry you through the session.

Sara:

Would you suggest

Serena:

to create a sort soundtrack also for people that are returning to

Serena:

work after a life changing experience?

Sara:

Yes.

Sara:

I would even say I, as a facilitator I don't do that often anymore, but

Sara:

before the pandemic, I had even my own playlist of preparing the session.

Sara:

I had a playlist of when I had to facilitate like more upbeat kind of

Sara:

sessions, I will play that music first and just like theory in my body, but

Sara:

also sometimes when I know, you know what, this is gonna be a challenging

Sara:

kind of session from the intake.

Sara:

Then I play before the session.

Sara:

Like this more calming and soothing kind of music.

Sara:

that reminds me.

Sara:

Where I come from, as in my ancestors and people in my life that's supporting me.

Sara:

So I feel that energy when I step in the room that I'm not alone.

Sara:

And even while talking to you, I think music is also.

Sara:

The expression of interconnectedness, right?

Sara:

Otherwise, it's just one note going.

Sara:

Uh, uh, uh, uh, But the music is of different notes come together, the poles

Sara:

between the notes, how quick a note and that's how human gather as well.

Sara:

We have the different notes and the pace is different.

Sara:

So yeah, I think a playlist would be a great idea for people returning to

Sara:

so, while themself is not the same anymore to get them in a States so

Sara:

that they can feel the space first within itself and from that open spot

Sara:

than to engage with others around them.

Sara:

And then coming back to the power dynamic, so then they don't bully

Sara:

themselves and then bully others.

Serena:

Do you have anything else that you want to share for our listeners?

Sara:

I would say just appreciation for you for creating this podcast

Sara:

and for others to listen to.

Sara:

And I think my final question maybe for the listener is what is

Sara:

worth for you to come back to and.

Sara:

Know that even in your darkest times, this too shall pass.

Sara:

And you're not alone.

Sara:

Even though I don't know you, who you're listening the one that listening to this

Sara:

podcast that I feel for you, I hope that you will have soothing moments every

Sara:

day to experience that light within.

Sara:

and that you'll have to support around you to yeah, do the great things

Sara:

that you'll do cuz you're awesome.

Serena:

Oh, thank you.

Serena:

Thank you so much.

Serena:

Thank you Seren.

Serena:

Thank you for listening to this episode, please share it with friends then needs

Serena:

to hear this important conversation.

Serena:

You can find more information in the description or on the website.

Serena:

pod.link/welcomeback.

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