Trauma Responses: How to Identify, Address, and Prevent Them ~ Lucia Die Gil
Facilitating a cohort-based course community means facilitating humans with a wide range of emotions and triggers. That's why I interviewed Lucia Die Gil to learn how to identify, prevent, and address sticky interpersonal situations that may arise during your cohort.
- How Lucia become interested in trauma informed collaboration (01:28)
- How CBC creators & facilitators can benefit from learning about trauma informed collaboration (04:08)
- A concrete example of what a trauma response might look like (05:55)
- How to distinguish a regular response from a trauma response (09:23)
- The three types of trauma responses (12:24)
- How to become aware of your own trauma responses so you can calm the situation rather than ignite it (16:08)
- Triggers and how to be aware of them (19:28)
- How measuring engagement metrics can cause a trauma response (31:04)
- More tips on how to prevent trauma responses (33:45)
- Final questions (42:19)
In a Nutshell
- A cohort member may express trauma in any of its three forms: fight, flight, freeze
- If you identify a trauma response, don’t react. Instead, respond. Your job is to calm the situation.
- Take preventative measures. For example, always give members permission to omit themselves from the group conversation.
[00:00:13] Jonathan: Ahoy, captain. Welcome to Cohort Captain, the only super actionable podcast made for cohort-based course creators. I'm your host, Jonathan Woodruff.
During your cohort, you might ask members to self-reflect, to learn more about themselves, to be vulnerable. Sometimes even in business-related cohorts, things get deep, emotions are high, and some of your members may have experienced trauma in their life. But how can you identify signs of trauma? How can you act quickly in an emotionally charged moment in a way that's responsible and ethical? I don't know the answers.
That is why my guest today is Captain Lucia Die Gil, who co-captains a cohort called a trauma informed collaboration over at greaterthan.works. And she is here right now to help us navigate some difficult situations that may arise in our cohorts.
So what is up, Lucia?
[00:01:20] Lucia: Hi, Jonathan. Thank you. Thanks for having me today.
[00:01:25] Jonathan: Oh,
[00:01:25] Lucia: What is up? Ooh, that's a big question.
[00:01:28] Jonathan: Oh, man, for sure. Well, it's a really, really great having you here, Lucia. aAnd I'm curious before we like really, really dig into, the meat of things. Just how did you become interested in teaching about trauma informed collaboration?
[00:01:43] Lucia: Yeah. So, I guess I could go back to where, back in my teens probably, I will not tell you the whole story, but a little bit of background I guess. I have a degree in psychology and that's where my interests with about humans and human development and understanding how humans operate and grow and develop, I guess comes from.
And throughout my corporate human resources career and time working in large organizations, I guess at the time, I wasn't very aware of any of this. and then since I started working in more distributed leadership models and more distributed teams and in teams where their relational space and the relationships are even more important, I guess this has started kind of coming up for me. And in a way it came to me.
It wasn't a topic that I was like exploring intentionally or wanting to explore more. But I remember one day with a friend a few years ago now, I was talking to him about what kind of work I do and why I do the work I do. And he said, ah, you are an organizational healer. And I was at that time was talking about like six years ago or so.
And I was like, well, then I don’t exactly know what that means yet, but I'm going to keep that in mind and keep that close to me cause that resonates so strongly. And since then, this is an area that kind of, I dunno, just showing up in my life and in conversations at work.
And then I found that we were having this conversation about trauma at work and how it influences our relationships and how it influenced the way we work. And we’re talking here about creating new, different ways of working. So we came together, we put together a pilot, about, you know, trauma informed collaboration.
And we saw that something important for ourselves to up-skill ourselves. Cause we're all facilitate and offer cohort-based courses through our academy and also to potentially start offering it to our clients and to our bigger audience. And that's what happened. We ran the pilot, and so far it's been great.
We've run, I think, four cohorts, and it's going great. And yeah, which is it's just really not really, not really without much effort.
[00:04:08] Jonathan: That's awesome. And so you've run four cohorts so far and, uh, it makes me wonder, you know, how can CBC creators specifically, you know, if, a CBC creator were to join your cohort, for example, or they're just listening to this podcast episode, how can a CBC creator benefit from, you know, specifically learning from about, trauma informed collaboration?
[00:04:31] Lucia: Yeah. Well, I guess why does it seem important in work? This work is important for cohort based course creators and facilitators. I think it's because at the end of the day in CBC, we, there's a very strong interpersonal relationship. We create cohorts because we want something to happen between the people in the cohort.
And at the end of the day or the beginning, trauma happens in relationships and interpersonal relationships later on in life can trigger different types of trauma responses. I believe that, as facilitators and course creators, we do have a responsibility for what happens in the group and for every participant's experience and that having some knowledge about trauma and his money to stay and what to do or what not to do if that happens or even to prevent it as much as we can, help us navigate this space.
I don't know. I think in the future, I would love to see learning spaces that are also healing spaces, but for now I think this is important at least. And it's important at least to build awareness and our capacity as hosts to respond if this trauma responses, and most importantly, to importantly, to create safe learning spaces for this cohort based courses.
[00:05:55] Jonathan: Absolutely. So what's an example. just to give me something concrete in my head that we're looking at here, like how can, if I'm running a cohort-based course, facilitating one, you know, what kind of scenario might I expect to, um, you know, encounter a trauma response? What does that look like?
[00:06:16] Lucia: Sometimes it's as simple as signs of stress. And I'll give you a specific example of something that happened in another cohort based course that I was hosting and, you know, being participatory and wanting to be, you know, wanting the sessions to be participatory and dynamic. We were using Miro, which is one of these kind of whiteboards online whiteboard tools.
You may know Miro. Anyway, we were using Miro and, you know, for us, I'm talking about the cohort and many people in the group these days does kind of day to day tool to use. And it's pretty simple and straightforward. And we just go there and take the sticky note, put it on the board and add your comments.
However, we did explain it, you know, share the link, explain how to use it and explain the activity that we wanted to do. And one person specifically got completely stressed about it. You know she wasn’t technology savvy or comfortable with these tools, then get onto the board. She didn't understand what they needed to do.
She probably didn't even, you know, I don't know, I'm just guessing here. So I didn't, we didn't go into that space, but you know, maybe not even this work, this way of working with post-it notes and all that, it wasn't something that he was familiar with. and what happened is that cigar really stressed in, you know.
Not knowing what to do and not knowing how to keep going. So one of the things that we did is just, I just, you know, let my co-host with the rest of the group in the main room and I took her to a breakout room to try to solve the technical issues but also to calm things down and to kind of allow for the big, strong response to slow down and calm down.
And this is, you know, we don't need to know where this comes from. We don't need to understand what it is about either, but it's about finding those small ways of making it safe for the person and for the rest of the group as well. And if any of this happens, we can have a backup plan. It's always about having a backup plan, even if something seems really simple and it's straight forward to you.
And also the other thing that comes from this example is the importance of never hosting alone. You know, if I was hosting that session on my own. I would have probably been more stressed out if I had to be with this person in the breakout room and at the same time, have the group doing their own thing.
So it doesn’t allow me to be in the state that I need to be in order to, you know, this response somehow, and yeah, I don't need to go. This is not, this is a very important thing that I don't want to forget to say. Being trauma informed is not about being a therapist, you know? I don't need to understand, I don't need to go on questioning this person about how, why this happened or this and that.
It doesn't really matter. It's about finding the ways to create that safer space. and yet definitely not talking about making anyone a therapist here.
[00:09:20] Jonathan: That’s good to know.
[00:09:22] Lucia: Yeah.
[00:09:23] Jonathan: uh, yeah, no need to go to four years or however much college to do this. So what does that stress look like though? So this person, you know, in this scenario, they're getting stressed out about, you know, not being able to do this technical activity. How do you know when it's like a little bit of stress that they can just kind of manage it through on their own versus like, they are about to explode and derail, you know, themselves and the cohort, and you need to pull them aside?
Like how can you kind of distinguish those two situations?
[00:10:01] Lucia: Yeah, that's a really good question. And we don't always know. I think setting up the, some agreements from the beginning helps, Not avoiding this to happen, but at least there's more awareness in the whole group as well. And it kind of creates more safety. And I'm thinking about safety a lot.
Little things like giving people the permission to do whatever they need to, like, sometimes we tend to ask people to put the camera on for example all the time. And of course, you know, we want to see people, it's easier for us as hosts and for the rest of the group to see everyone's faces.
However, in, from this work, it's very important that everyone has an option to do what they need to do, and they may want to keep the camera off, or they might want to not say anything in a circle. Like if we're doing a circle in which everyone is sharing some of their reflections, someone might not want to share, and that's totally fine.
So giving people permission and getting very clear about that from the beginning and even repeating it as much as we need, even if it's in, you know, in a cohort based in a multi week cohort-based course... It doesn't matter if we repeat this every session. It’s never, it's never too much to repeat these things.
So yeah, you don't want to participate is fine. You don't want to speak in this circle that we're doing. It's fine. You don't want to put your camera on. It's absolutely fine. I'm really, truly being fine with it. So setting up those agreements from the beginning and all those little things that we can do that we can do to create a little bit more comfort, I guess, and safety as well.
That helps a lot with not, cause sometimes by forcing people and I'm using intentionality, the word forcing people to put the camera on. We are somehow potentially triggering some trauma responses. So we don't know what people get triggered from, and we can identify it.
I think more than wanting to identify it and say, we have to be careful as well about not now starting to see everything as a trauma response. I like maybe someone is uncomfortable or someone didn't do their hair today and they don't want to put the camera on. And that's fine as well, but it's as facilitators and host and creator, it's important to be okay with anything that the person needs and in any given moment.
[00:12:24] Jonathan: Yeah.
And I think it empowers us as creators and facilitators to really understand what might be going on in the situation. You know, like you said, it could be that they're having a bad hair day and that's all there is to it. But just to be aware that, you know, there might be something that we don't understand because we don't have the same, you know, potentially traumatic experiences as someone else.
So if someone's like, responding in a way that seems, you know, not, what's the way to say this, not weird to us, but just out of proportion in a certain situation like, oh, you know, I didn't expect like such, you know, quite that level of an emotional response to, you know, not giving them explicit permission to, you know, turn off their camera. If someone gets really angry about that, it might be really easy to blow that off, like, oh, that person's, I don't know, not with it today or like, you know, just kind of think that someone's irrational almost, but to really understand that it's not necessarily, it's not irrational, it's just that they, yeah, it might be a trauma response.
I think it's really eye opening just to be aware of that and really helpful. Just to know that.
[00:13:38] Lucia: That’s interesting what you're saying Jonathan, because that is one form of trauma response, but we can, we can speak about, we can talk about three potential, three different trauma responses. And this leads to one of the topics that I don't want to forget. So I don't want to kind of get all tangled on that.
But if we talk about the three basic trauma responses, Fight, which is what you just described. You know, it’s anger, it’s fighting, it's responding maybe in a way that may seem irrational or disproportionate, but there's also flight, which is moving away, going away. Think about observing or seeing a fight and you just go away. And the other one is freeze, which is where we freeze.
And, you know, if you see these animals, like lizards, that pretend to be dead, you know, and you're like, ah, they're pretending to be dead. So we leave them alone. Actually, that's the freeze response. And these were, we completely, our systems sat down and that in our space, I mean, the online and in this kind of learning experiences that we create, so that’s another form of disconnecting.
So sometimes it's a bit difficult to know whether that's a safe space for the person or whether they are moving into a freeze response. And you know, depending on the situation, that's why it's important to allow everyone to do whatever they need. And to have maybe a co-host, maybe sometimes you can have a breakout room where you can also from the beginning as well, if anyone needs support, one of us will go there depending on the topics that we'll use that, you know, but you can have a breakout room and take them with one of the while the, their response kind of comes down and sometimes we will never know.
We can ask as well. You know, if you start sensing something, you can ask the person. Are you okay there? Yeah. Fine. Is there anything you need? And depending on the situation, it might not be the best way to do it with the group, but maybe you can do it afterwards to understand what was going on, if it's appropriate.
I'm aware I'm not giving you exact tips on how to identify. It’s not that simple. And I think we've experienced some building awareness is where we start learning to identify these responses a bit better. Even being aware that can be, it's a trauma response, so I'm not going to push it.
You know, that's sometimes important enough and effective enough.
[00:16:08] Jonathan: Yeah.
So like, I'm thinking about like a flight response, for example, and this would be, I think this one would be particularly difficult to pinpoint because it's kind of a natural thing that maybe someone in the cohort is going to not participate as much as the others. And it could be that they're just busy.
It could be, you know, a certain life circumstances came about that they didn't anticipate, and they have to pay attention to those and less time to the cohort than they had originally dedicated time to, it could be a lot of things, but it could be a trauma response, like you're saying. So when you reach out to this person, what are things that you don't say? What are things that you do say, you know, for example, over email.
[00:16:57] Lucia: You can simply ask, you know, let things like, I'm not saying that, you know, or something like more general, maybe like I go, you know, I would like to have to have opportunity for everyone to participate, you know, would you be happier to participate in the chat or this or that? I can integrate all the ways that you can participate? And also maybe offering, just having a conversation, you know, about the course on how's it going for them and getting any kind of, sort of feedback in the sense of what’s working for you. What's not working for you, you know, I'm just curious about what's working for you and what's not working for you and how can we improve this so that they experience and they might say, this is great.
You know, some people are, they learn better by, by listening so they don't need to reflect back or to express or to share. Some people just learn by listening. And that might be great experience for them just as it is. The other thing that's important there, is to be aware of our own responses as their host. Like I said before trauma happens in relationships. So if I am here in relationship with you, Jonathan, and you have a trauma response, let's say it's anger or stress, which is very visible. And if it's easier to identify, that might trigger a trauma response in me. So what's very important here is that me, as I, as a co, as a facilitator, as a host, I am aware of my own trauma responses, what triggers them and how to calm my system down, how can I regulate and how can I stay calm and not react?
And every action could be an email asking you, why did you get angry at me? You know? To what extent is that curiosity and wanting to improve your experience or to what extent is that my reaction? So bringing awareness to yourself is so, so important. And that's also why having, again, I, I couldn't say this enough, having two facilitators is really important because if I'm triggered, I can even send you a private message and say, Hey, can you keep going for a bit, you know, or whatever, while I deal with my response. So that dynamic can be being aware of what it is that triggers me and what can I encounter in a cohort-based course, and then the systems and with the participants that actually can trigger me.
And how am I going to deal with that before I try to do anything about it? Does that make sense?
[00:19:28] Jonathan: Yeah, it completely makes sense. I was hoping you'd talk about that actually, because as you were talking before, it made me feel like, oh, you know, if someone gets angry at me, I probably would feel a little bit like, you know, angry back or a little defensive, and defensive feeds the fire, it doesn't actually help.
So it just reminded me of, when I was working at my first company out of college, a big ol’ company, and we had a monthly meeting with the entire company in this big auditorium. And for that particular meeting, They had invited a speaker to come and he had written a book. I don't remember what it's called, but it's about triggers.
So exactly what you're talking about. And basically the premise of it all is that, you know, we have our primitive brain basically, and information goes into our primitive brain and it stores like, you know, the memories that we need to store and like, and basically It's not that we're getting angry in the moment at what's happening to us now, it's that it's reminding us of something that happened in the past.
And we are interpreting this current situation as a threat. Basically it is my understanding of it. And so this thing that's a threat at us now is like, it is a trigger. It's like what you said it like, it makes us wants to respond back in a certain way. It makes us feel all these kinds of emotions. And so I love that, you know, your recommendation in this case, if like you're feeling that, you know, those emotions and you, you almost want to get back at the person or whatever it is, to have a second person that is completely emotionally dissociated from the situation. And they can bring some perspective to it because it's not like the reality of the situation is that you're being attacked. It's just that your interpretation of that is what's happening, but the other person can bring that reality to it.
Cause they're not perceiving that they're being attacked. They can see the situation for what it is.
[00:21:21] Lucia: Exactly. And you know, another time we will be the other way around, you know, you might be the one holding it there. Another one on this is, this is like, you know, in regards to the example of sending the person an email that you were talking about before, if someone freezes and like we say disconnect, and we interpret that as a trauma response.
Or if we interpret that as, as a way that the person is not engaged or not liking the content, it might trigger my not good enough. I'm not good enough stuff. So that might trigger me wanting to send an email to that person about how can we improve it? You know? So at the end of the day, there's many different ways that we can engage in that trigger to trigger response in that is not helpful for anyone. So that's why it's very important before reacting to, I guess even before getting there being really doing your own work about understanding yourself, understanding your wounds and your triggers and how, what are your instinctive and your immediate responses.
And through building that awareness, we can build the tools and the capacity to actually regulate and, you know, just, yeah, sometimes just being aware of it. Sometimes you just find yourself, ah, look at that. Well, Jonathan said yesterday, triggered me. This is happening internally. I'm feeling not good enough.
Okay. I'm just going to let it sit with it for a moment and not react now. And maybe I'll live it for a day or something. And if this is still there, then I might ask I'm definitely. Those emails or those questions come out really differently. Like I've experienced so many times writing an email in a reaction moment and then letting it sit for a day, coming back to it and rewriting it completely different saying the same thing, but with a completely different energy and from a completely different space.
So yeah, that self awareness is really important.
[00:23:15] Jonathan: It's kind of like we're getting into meditation territory. It's like meditation as a practice, like as an application to this sort of situation, because I know with our just, I dunno, I'm not a, I don't meditate a whole lot. I should probably do it more, but like, from what little I've learned in meditation.
Like it's about awareness. It's about like sitting there and just being aware of your emotions, almost like you can see yourself from an outside perspective. Like you're, looking at yourself, as if you're another person and just being aware of like what you're feeling, but not, I don't know.
It's I don't know. I'm not explaining it very well.
I read a book by this guy who, is a monk. and, he has a Ted Talk and everything and is super popular, but just the analogy that stuck with me, he said that emotions are like a cloud that looks like if you can picture, I don't know, something really dangerous, like a snake or something.
I don't know that it's a cloud that looks like a snake or something, and it's scary. But when you walk towards it, you realize that it's just mist.
And that just stuck with me and I think it'll stick with me forever because, it's like, the emotion seems so real. It seems like such a threat, but then you look at it more closely or you look at it from a distance actually, and you can see it for what it really is. You're just aware of it. And then that gives you that, like you said, it just, it gives you like you wait a day, just wait a day to email them. And then it gives you that perspective that you need.
[00:24:56] Lucia: That's fascinating. And also, I just want to add, let's not minimize the impact of trauma then because also that could be, you know, for some people, meditation has built self awareness. Other people find it in writing, or journaling or other people find that they build self awareness to connecting with nature.
So there's different words for different people. One, it is true that emotions are cloud, and it's also true that trauma experiences have an effect. And this is something that is really important to understand in this space is that trauma is not in the event. Trauma is stored in the nervous system.
It's anything that happens to us that is overwhelming and that we can not fully feel or digest and process, be with, integrate and heal. That is trauma in our nervous system, really in our physiology and in our neurology. And who hasn’t experienced something that is scary or overwhelming in life?
So, you know, when we talk about from others, obviously the big traumatic events, like, I don't know, abuse of any type, car accident, war, surgical intervention, or a big loss of someone close to you, and trauma can also be very micro, can be, experiences that are not life-threatening, but they store in the system as trauma as well, like let's say someone who, you know, their parents were constantly angry, and fighting at home.
And as a kid, they were constantly in alert and feeling unsafe, even though it will have nothing to do with them directly. But that environment creates a need in the nervous system to be alert constantly, or, uh, family systems that don't allow us to be authentic, or an education system where bullying happens, you know, and even repetitive experiences of a stress over time can be stored in the nervous system as trauma.
So it's not like. You know, many people think, ah, I don't have any trauma in my life. Okay. Maybe you don't have any of the big events, but have you really not experienced anything that is scary or overwhelming in your life? So it's to understand that has an impact at a very, deep, physiological level.
That is, obviously it comes with emotion and we can live with that. But it's also really, we need to work on it at a very somatic at a very physiological level as well. And we're getting in complex territory here, but I think it's important to understand that trauma is not the event. It's really in the nervous system.
[00:27:43] Jonathan: Yeah. That's so interesting. And so what you're saying is, basically we all have trauma, right?
[00:27:49] Lucia: Yeah. Pretty much. Well, yeah. I don't know. Maybe there's someone out there who doesn't.
[00:27:55] Jonathan: Yeah. Fair enough. Yeah. That, and like, I guess the way you can tell is like, Do you ever get angry? Do you ever want to run away from a situation? Right?
[00:28:05] Lucia: Yeah. Do you ever feel stressed? Do you ever feel unsafe or do you ever feel like you disconnect? Different people have different trauma responses as well or different than. So different primary trauma responses. Like mine, for example, is, or used to be a freeze. And, you know, I remember a colleague of mine who once said it took me years to understand freeze.
Cause I didn't, I never experienced it. I was like, what?? What do you mean you've never experienced freeze? Is that something that not everyone experiences kind of like understanding that our experience of it is completely different, can be completely different. And how diverse and how different we are, we essentially are.
We were having a conversation the other day with my colleague, Maria, and we were talking about diversity and how we can have five white women in a room and we are essentially very different. So diversity is way more than what we can see or what we can measure as well.
So anyway, that's probably for a different conversation.
[00:29:14] Jonathan: For sure. And, I do want to get into the, you were covering it a little bit before the things not to do, the things to do. So now that we have kind of, you know, more of an understanding of what trauma is, what to look for, what it looks like, how to deal with some of those situations, um, you know, let's get more into like the, uh, what not to do and what to do, starting with what not to do.
So. You already mentioned a few things. Um, and that is that we don't need to know why. We're not the therapist. And actually that's the biggest one so far. So, uh, So, what else? What else should we not be doing? What else should we be avoiding here?
[00:29:59] Lucia: Yeah. The other thing is, you know, we've spoken about before as well, not forcing anyone to do anything, like sometimes. We think that everything has to be participatory and everyone needs to participate. And that's an indicator of how good the course or our sales are. You know, if everyone is participating and how they've come around, that means they are engaged.
And that means the course is good… someone can have the camera on and be watching a movie while you're talking. It's not really an indicator. Not forcing anyone to do anything, that's even more important. I'm using the camera as an example, but it's even more important when we're talking about sharing in a group.
Some people feel really, really uncertain in a group setting and speaking up or showing up in a group. So don't force it, not forcing anyone to do anything and having options, you know, always giving people permission, like we're doing breakout circle, and we can say, if you don't want to speak, just say pass and that's totally fine.
And really being okay with it. what else can we know where we….
[00:31:04] Jonathan: Well, actually, I want to, um, before you get to the next one, I just wanted to comment on one thing that, to our listeners, Lucia and I, and let me know if I'm wrong here, Lucia, but Lucia and I officially give you all permission to not worry about your engagement metrics.
[00:31:28] Lucia: Um,
[00:31:29] Jonathan: because I feel like that’s a pressure that we feel, like even if we hear multiple times, oh, don't worry about doing engagement metrics. Don't worry about them. It's like this fear that we have in our heads, for some reason that we need to be like having a really highly engaged community or whatever. And it's just not, it's not the case.
Like it's just not, it doesn't, it's not the, it's not the. Like there are better ways to measure the effectiveness of your cohort than that. It's not even really an important metric. And like what you're saying now, Lucia, if you're overly worried about engagement, it could actually lead to the detriment of the cohort and lead to these situations where you're not giving people the permission to opt out of the conversation.
[00:32:12] Lucia: And what's engagement? You know, we're talking about engagement as something very visceral and very measurable. And this other ways of engagement as well. And there's other ways of being effective and impactful in what we do on how we bring these groups together and potentially, you know, be patient as well.
Like cohort based courses are useful in a multi, multi, multi week. Not always. But you know, you can build that across the different weeks, across the different sessions that you have with the group. It doesn't have to all happen in the first week or the first session. and yeah, just what does he mean?
You know sometimes you may have someone who hasn't participated at all in any form during the course, and then a month later, they come back to you saying, wow, that course changed my life. I'm doing this differently. Now this and that. We never know how the impact is going to happen and when. So just kind of, it's a little bit of reducing pressure and also a little bit of letting go of that attachment that we have of what's good and what's not good.
And how good it looks like. You know, it's like sometimes we don't know and sometimes the impact that we have in someone and in someone's life might not come back to us after a year or two or never, you know, we might not know, but just be confident that what you're doing, it's good and it's good for some people, it will not be good for others, but you know, it's like engagement and the way we measure engagement at the moment is not the only indicator of what happens and what the impact is.
[00:33:45] Jonathan: 100%. So yeah.
So we have, we don't need to know why… we're not the therapist. And not forcing anyone to do anything.
Any other major “not to do's” that we should be aware of?
[00:33:57] Lucia: Um, well, what we talked about before, and that's a little bit tricky, but not react in the moment to anything that is happening, you know, not. I mean, respond, learning to respond, which is not the same as reacting. Responding, in a different way, it can respond not from my trigger space, but from a more aware and calm, and regulated space.
So, and definitely if you feel, you usually feel it in your system either, you know, sometimes it's, if what bringing up is anger, sometimes you feel it as a warm coming through your belly, and then something warm coming through your belly. And you can't force it. Just take a pause, you know, don't rush it.
Don't rush the process. That's the other not, I think from here, don't rush it. Don't rush the process.
Don't fill the cohort with a lot of content and a lot of things to do. Just allow for a space and allow for lower conversations and lower activities. And also some people don’t you know, don't respond the same way and need more time to get into content or get into an activity.
So I think this is a mantra that I've been using in the last year or so… design for space. And it can feel a little bit scary for some people because it's like, oh, what if I run out of things to do or say, you can always have a backup of more things to do or say or share. But the design for space is the key one I think. Allow for that space to happen.
[00:35:39] Jonathan: Love that. And, so we have a few things definitely not to do. And then how do we avoid creating these… like, what can we do actively, to prevent or avoid creating these trauma responses?
[00:35:55] Lucia: Yeah. some things that we haven't spoken about on this that kind of gets into complicated science territory, but social engagement is a term that we can all understand. So how do we build social engagement and how do we bring social engagement tools into our design and the way we facilitate?
And social engagement is what happens in the nervous system when we connect with people. And we can do this two different ways. And online specifically, you know, it can feel a little bit limiting because we cannot physically be there with the person, but there are some things that we can do, we can…
One is super important. One is the use of our voice and not rushing. If the person is talking like super fast and everything's happening, nd there's lots of content sharing, it is really overwhelming. So that can create a trauma response and can cause people disconnecting, like high level energy or high feet and all that.
Sometimes it's a little bit triggering for different experiences in the past. So the voice is super important and keeping the voice calm and keeping the speech is low, which is not always easy when we want to do so much, keeping your engagements with the camera. You know, that the group participants obviously have the permission to not have their camera on.
But as the host, as a facilitator, it's important that you do, you know, because that's how you're engaging with the group. That's how they are seeing you and receiving your communication with you and your words. So, yeah, looking at the camera, being engaging with them.
There's some, what am I, there's some other kind of even, you know, you can do little connection activities, even like, you know, ah, we can see it in the podcast, but you know, I dunno, like holding hands through the camera. So Jonathan, you put your hand to the right and I put my hands to the right of the little square, and we can just kind of touch… this might be difficult to understand on a podcast.
[00:38:09] Jonathan: We’re basically shaking hands from New Zealand to Wisconsin in the USA.
[00:38:13] Lucia: That's right. That's right. Like I said before, always co-hosting, always having a co-host. If you have a big group, if we have a large group, then maybe have a few people available for support, you know, that if needed, they can go in the breakout room and solve any technical issues. So many people get triggered because of technical issues, because that triggers feelings of not being capable or, you know, or being alone, even.
So having someone who can support with any of that, we’re speaking about the cohorts, then I think it's important to have a support group, even if it's two, three people, cause they're not going to be needed all the time. But some people that can step in and out of, supporting people individually. So never hosting alone, always have a backup plan.
As simple as what you're doing seems, giving people permission, any social engagement activities, be there, be there, use your voice. Calm your voice. Slow down. Some people find it easier if you, if they can hide their own video. So then I would be seeing you only. So offering things like that to people like, you know, people might not know how to do that on so much, even that you can do it, but sometimes some people find it really distracting seeing themselves and looking at themselves.
So just kind of telling people how to hide their own video. Some people find it helpful.
What else? If in your cohort-based course there is some small group work, now, you know, sometimes we do that a lot in our courses, like half the plenary sessions in with the whole group meets, then there's some groups or some projects that is more groups will come together and it might be as a group of three or five or whatever.
If that's part of your course, offer them guidelines, really clear guidelines about what these groups are for how to relate to each other, even things like try to set up a rhythm and try to meet regularly, try to get someone to organize: Where are you going to meet? When are you going to meet? Choose a facilitator for the session.
Be clear on your objectives for the session. Stick to time. You know things like that, very practical. And then things that we normally put as principles, like, you know, respect each other. What happens in the group is confidential. You know, things like how do we want those small groups to work?
So giving people guidelines, even though some things are very, seem very obvious and it's like common sense, but it's good to give them in a, in a little document so everyone is on the same page. That's why. And like I said, what seems really obvious and simple might not be for everyone.
I don't know if there's anything. And if we start doing those things and not doing those things that we've just mentioned, that could change a lot. And that would be super, super cool. I mean, yeah, that would make me happy. This conversation is way worth it if we get there, there's probably way more things that we can do and practice.
Add a post, and get people to take a couple of deep breaths. Ask people if they need a break. Those are things that we can do to help the system operate in a more regulated way.
[00:41:38] Jonathan: Yeah. I agree. All of these things are just, you know, the way I'm seeing it is it's about being very thoughtful, you know, being very aware and thoughtful of other people and yeah, I think that would make our cohort a better place and in a small way, the world a little bit of a better place too.
[00:41:53] Lucia: Yeah, then, you know, don't be afraid. There's no like, oh my God, my group are going to have trauma, what am I going to do with it? It's just about, you know, it's really kind of start with simple things. And like we said, at the beginning, this is not about making anyone a therapist or expecting anyone to be a therapist.
That's not what this is about. It’s about being aware of what can happen and how to make things better and easier for everyone to have a better experience.
[00:42:19] Jonathan: Totally. Well, thank you so much, Lucia. Before we wrap up here, I have two questions for you that I like to ask at the end. So, the first one being, what is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a cohort-based course creator so far? And how did you solve that challenge?
[00:42:39] Lucia: Like very broadly and the speaking of general cohort-based course creators or facilitators or staff, our, our cohorts are usually small. So our cohorts are usually intentionally intimate. Like these work that we do, we keep the groups small and we want to have proper time and proper space for everyone.
And so sometimes it's tricky to attract people at the price range that we need to cover cost. You know, so it's like if you sometimes have a large cohort makes it easier financially, but having a small cohort makes it more difficult. And so kind of working on finding that balance between pricing, making it affordable and accessible and having still that group that is intimate, that sometimes we don't go beyond 12 people or something like that.
So it's just finding that balance of how can we make this accessible to more people and still keep it intimate and small. That's a challenge that we still haven't fully solved. I think one way that we work with it is we really respond to what's happened in like there's some of the courses that we've created haven't had much response and we don't try to push it hard.
You know, if there's no response, there's no response. And of course we can adapt the price range so we can adapt different things, but it gets to a point where you're like, okay, this is not working. It looks like it's not needed, or it's not the right time for this. And so more this like the trauma informed collaboration, like I said, it's just really rolling and it's just happening and we keep it small, but that's why we run more cohorts and a couple of cohorts a year, at least so that we can have access to two other people.
So I guess being in contact with what's happening there and sensing what's needed and what's wanted and responding to that. Yeah. Finding that balance is a bit tricky sometimes.
[00:44:36] Jonathan: Totally. And final question for you, Lucia. Where can listeners keep in touch with you?
[00:44:43] Lucia: Oh, on LinkedIn, if you, I guess my name is usually misspelled, but I'm sure it will be properly spelled. And then I’m on the greaterthan.works website as well. Yeah, those are the two key places, I guess.
[00:45:01] Jonathan: Okay. Awesome. And yeah. we'll, we'll include, all that contact information in the show notes, so you all can just click on it. So.
[00:45:09] Lucia: Yeah.
[00:45:10] Jonathan: Cool. Well, thank you. So, so, so much Lucia.
[00:45:13] Lucia: Thank you, Jonathan. This has been lovely and yeah, really nice. And really flowing. Really enjoyed this conversation.
[00:45:21] Jonathan: Me too. Well, we'll catch you on the flippity.
[00:45:26] Lucia: Nice. Thank you.
[00:45:33] Jonathan: Thanks for listening. If you'd like to listen to more episodes, hop aboard CohortCaptain.com. If you'd like to be my matey, I would love for you to message me on LinkedIn or Twitter. And remember, always captain your cohort, always be my matey, and never lick an iceberg while your ship is passing by.
How to Get in Touch
- Lucia Die Gil
- Jonathan (host)
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