Tips and Techniques
November 10, 2021

Watch the Gatekeepers

Guide your group by gently calling out where they’re deviating from a good path by naming the Gate that’s either being shut or opened.

I’m a big fan of metaphors. They’re everywhere in our speech, in our movies and books, in our dreams.

I was thinking about conversation dynamics in meetings and workshops (as you do), and the metaphors that come up in people’s speech: 

  • I’m not going to die on that hill today
  • We don’t have time to go down that rabbit-hole
  • Let’s go up-stream from that point
  • What’s our North Star?
  • We need to bring them on the journey

I’m sure you can think of some too!

It occurred to me that if a conversation is a metaphorical Path (or set of Paths) toward an end-point, then some people are particularly good at being Gatekeepers.

In other words, they have power – through charisma, status, knowledge, position, you name it – to either open or close Gates to a more productive Path.

Some people know their Gatekeeping power, and use it well, to curb and refocus unproductive conversation.

Some know it, and use it for too much personal gain, by shutting the Gate to a good path prematurely, coercing a group to go their way instead, or intentionally holding a Gate open to an unproductive path, with aimless questions or remarks.

And some people do it and have no idea they’re doing it.

Watch the Gatekeepers. Watch for these behaviours. As a facilitator, guide your group by gently calling out where they’re deviating from a good path, not by naming people, but by naming the Gate that’s either being shut or opened.

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