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Group Practices: Story
Story in Group Formation
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Many organized groups, whether in a classroom, workshop, business meeting or therapeutic situation, begin with having participants introduce themselves. Often the introduction is made in terms of information: name, organizational affiliation, rank or position, professional qualifications, location. Sometimes a question is asked such as "What do you hope to get out of this [seminar, meeting, etc.]?"

Collective resonance is more likely to occur when people are asked to introduce themselves by way of story, sharing something more personal and revealing about themselves. Once the group senses itself as a collective, rather than as individuals who happen to be present in the same room, the “task” of the group can be accomplished with a sense of greater ease and enjoyment.

For example, in the first year of the Trinity Wall Street Dialogues, each person was asked to talk for five minutes about their values. What was surprising was the reflective quality. Rather than answer the question as one might in a job interview, participants told stories of their lives, how those values were acquired or formed. By the time each person had spoken, a sense of intimacy and informality was present in the room, and strangers or acquaintances had found deep connections. That allowed them to better understand the perspectives each person brought to the topics of their dialogues, and to speak less from the intellect and more as whole people. (Story will be available soon).

In one of the interviews for the Group Magic dissertation, the interviewee was the human resources director for an organization created by the merger of two social service agencies. At a post-merger retreat held to create a joint vision, people came filled with tension because of the merger and the incipient clash of cultures. The first exercise was to have each person pick a small scroll out of a bowl, read the philosophical saying on it aloud, then introduce themselves, referring to the saying on the scroll if they felt some connection with it. By the time everyone had completed the exercise, the HR director felt that as if there wasn’t any difference between the two agencies. There was already a unified spirit. That feeling facilitated the development of a joint vision. (Story will be available soon)

Whether your group is meeting for the first time, or has been meeting or working together for a while, experiment with setting aside time at the beginning of the next meeting for each person to introduce themselves with a story. Pose a question that can be answered in 3-5 minutes, but that requires a degree of reflection or self-revelation. In a business setting, the sharing can be personal but still business-related. Perhaps a group that has worked together for a while has never shared the stories of how each of them came to their profession. Perhaps each person could share a high point in their work life, or a time when they had a big breakthrough or insight. Encourage people to tell their stories in a way that makes the stories come alive for the listeners. Where did the story take place? Who else was present? What did the storyteller feel like when that was happening?

SOURCE: Renee Levi, Group Magic interviews Renee's Profile

RESOURCES: See also the group practices for Deep Listening under SILENCE Deep Listening

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