Say it with…..loom bands

So loom bands are what it’s all about at the moment, just in case you didn’t know. These little elastic bands that can be twisted and joined together to make bracelets (and probably a million and one other things if you are so inclined) do seem to be a very much talked about subject. Well, at least if the place you go everyday has a playground. They basically seem to be the re-invention of the friendship bracelet which is what I remember making when I was at school. While loom bands are made of plastic (or rubber) and need to be looped together on your fingers, or an a complicated looking loom if you are really into it, friendship bracelets (as I remember them) are made of coloured embroidery thread. We used to make them by tying pieces of the coloured thread to a safety pin and weave them together in all sorts of different designs.

Although friendship bracelets seemed to take quite a while to make (or maybe that was just because I was a child and everything seemed to take much longer!) loom band bracelets seem to evolve pretty quickly – in minutes. There is a quick gain and sense of achievement for very little cost and effort (300 bands for £1 – what a bargain). There seems to be a simple enjoyment in making the bracelet itself but an even bigger pleasure in giving them away to your friends.

Wearing them shows you are somehow part of the club, that you ‘get it’ and are part of the craze. But making one for someone else shows that you can do the thing that everyone is doing, that you have learnt the skill and that you can give someone something that you have proudly made. I’m sure once you get more adept this will become more about the kudos associated with different designs and colour combinations and that there will be a more complex code to attain. But for now, my six year old at least is content that she can show what she can do to her friends and be part of the moment.

And this is what friendship bracelets were all about. While I am not entirely convinced that we won’t be tied up in a heap of rubber bands at some time in the future (all our efforts to recycle outdone in one summer of this new craze) I like the kind of mass communication of solidarity and friendship. I am not alone in worrying about too much screen time for our children and not enough playing, so I am all for something that is creative and promotes sharing. It’s a new thing to talk about in the playground and there’s something about passing on and sharing a small bracelet make of coloured bands that I rather like. I can feel all my green credentials slowly being eroded by this seemingly innocuous thing that has created such as buzz. Whether your response is one of raised eyebrows and “oh, not loom bands” or “I love loom bands” it is that shared knowing what the thing is all about that is kind of comforting.

Communication comes in all forms, it’s not just about verbalising what we are thinking or about writing or even listening. Sometimes it’s just about doing something and watching, about performing a gesture that shows something and gives a message. Not everyone is good at saying what they think, and some people are just great at making things instead. The Interflora “say it with flowers” slogan is so true, there’s something about communicating your love or friendship by giving something to your nearest and dearest (especially if it is made) that is an instant win.

The kind of symbolism embodied in giving someone a friendship bracelet (or its present day loom band version) demonstrates some kind of implicit shared knowledge or idea.  When you see someone with symbol that you recognise, maybe something from the same shop or the same piece of jewellery (I guess loom band bracelets just about fall into this category) there is an instant understanding of that ‘badge’ that shows that you are part of the group. Us humans love to be part of a group and to communicate in the way the rest of the group recognises and values.

The way this lingua franca of rubber band communication is shared is also fascinating, with pre-teens and younger posting Youtube clips on line to share their creations.  While ‘back in the day’ (to use one of my husband’s favourite expressions) symbols travelled more slowly and were shared more by people meeting up and coming face to face, these days everything is more rapid and more virtual. The loom band craze has been swept along in a much more global way supported by a whole host of media and social networking. It has gone beyond playground level in a swift and ubiquitous way and even if you don’t have children it is hard to ignore the “get your loom bands here” signs in many of the shops that at least make you ask, “what on earth is a loom band…..?” and suddenly you’re talking about it. This kind of message somehow leaps around everywhere all at once and your simple gesture of giving a hand-made bracelet to a friend is part of a global phenomena.

At least that’s what it feels like from here, in a household with children where part of my social network is other parents and children, and the talk is often about their talk and their ideas and their communications. A visit to friends with children on the other side of the country is somehow made easier by the spotting of mutual loom band bracelets and an instant talking point for shy kids. So while I’m not really the kind of person who is particularly up on the latest trends, I quite like this fad, this craze. I like the way it has got people talking and I like the collective sharing of these small tokens. I like the way that (probably thanks to my six year old daughter) I am in on the joke, I know what it’s all about and I get the symbol. It’s not the first craze and it won’t be the last, and it remains to be seen how long the moment sticks around before it gets forgotten and we are just left finding elastic bands down the side of the sofa.

I think actually they might even make a good fiddle toy at one of my next workshops or perhaps a discussion starter at least. If nothing else, I now know who Harry Styles is (allegedly a loom band bracelet wearer) and they are a far more interesting topic than the World Cup……….

A facilitated workshop in LEGO

So there I was mulling over some more concrete ways to explain facilitation and I got sort of side tracked by the toy box……

I have let the LEGO people say it all today – I have set up a small workshop for them although I am not truely sure what is on the agenda. Perhaps some probem solving on the issue of losing tiny bits of LEGO, or some LEGO product reviews.

Hopefully in real life I am not dwarfed quite so badly by my flip chart stand.

A Monday morning poem

Extremely good facilitation

For amazing group communication

Helping people to share ideas

And making sure that everyone hears

Fantastic at meeting group objectives

Encouraging a range of different perspectives

Creating the space for a really fun session

Ensuring maximum participation

Your meetings will feel more trouble free

Facilitation makes things easy you see!

Facilitation – not a job that’s in a nutshell

I have just been brainstorming myself on what it is I do. I seem to spend an awful lot of my time describing, explaining and redefining what it is that I do to people. I love the flexibility of facilitation work and that it can be many things in many different ways. But sometimes it would be nice to have a job in a nutshell as they say; “In a nutshell it’s …….”

I started my working life as a Speech and Language Therapist. The job title in itself was often a bit of a mouthful, frequently shortened to SLT or SALT. Commonly people would also just say “ah a Speech Therapist” which doesn’t really give the whole picture if the job. While it was easy to say what I did as people think they know what Speech and Language Therapists do, it was also incredibly frustrating to realise that the profession was often downgraded to those who fix stutters or lisps. Oh, it is so much more…

Years later through the twists and turns of a professional life following the art of improving communication in a number of different ways I don’t know what is better or worse. Is it easier to be able to say what you do and not be given the opportunity to actually exlain when people assume they understand (and often don’t really). Or is it harder when you are given every opportunity to explain what you do, but that you have to do this nearly every time someone asks?  I have to admit I do sometimes just say that I spend my days playing with sticky notes and flip chart paper…..

There is probably a part of me that quite likes having a job that is not immediately obvious, and perhaps a little bit confusing, and the flexibility and mobility around the work is one of the things I love the best.  But just some days, it would be nice it if was simple to define……..