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Group Practices: Vulnerability
Get to Know Group Members as Human Beings First

In groups that describe themselves as resonant, time is taken to get to know one another as human beings. It may seem counterintuitive, but the time spent learning about each other actually results in greater productivity when the group moves to address its task. Sharing parts of one’s story that are not usually shared involves vulnerability. The self-revelation that occurs in this process seems to have the effect of uniting people around their commonalities instead of separating them by their differences, making their work together easier and more enjoyable.

Eliciting honest sharing requires good questions to start the group talking. One of the best questions I have personally experienced was asked in a group of graduate students gathered to begin a new course together. Instead of moving quickly into the curriculum and the many details related to the coursework, the instructor, Alan Briskin, seated the students in a circle and asked them to respond to this: Think of a time when suddenly, something you understood perfectly now appears in a new light. What occurred? What shifted in you? What was the result? As each of us reflected on, and then shared, our personal experience of not knowing with this group of strangers, truth and safety grew into a palpable field of resonance. Each of us saw reflections of ourselves in others' stories and we moved quickly from a collection of individuals into a true collective.

Before beginning to work on whatever it is your group needs to address, try asking the question above, or adapt the question to the situation you are in. Just be sure it is a question that requires reflection and personal revelation, and is about a positive experience. Allow time for everyone to answer, up to five minutes per person. Set some ground rules such as how deep listening requires no interruptions or comments to the speaker. Allow people to speak when called to instead of going around in a circle. Allow it to be voluntary. Watch closely what happens and where the shifts seem to be. Allow yourself to feel the flow as you participate authentically.

SOURCE: Renee Levi, Group Magic interviews [add link to her profile]

RECOMMENDED READING: M.G. Goldberg, The Art of the Question, New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 1998.

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