Symptoms of trouble:
People stop being vulnerable
Anyone challenging the situation is immediately intimidated
People stop being vulnerable, men go into placating or superficial behavior
Assessment of group process:
Who or what is controlling the group?
Who is the carrier of discordant energy?
Assessment of trust level:
Is there anything I need to clear up, internally or with someone else, in order to be fully present here?
"Calling the Circle, The First and Future Culture" Christina Baldwin
Getting back on track:
Are you part of the problem yourself? Do you overreact? Check to see if others share your observations.
What if someone seems to be monopolozing the group and rambling without regard for others? What happens when we think someone is taking too much time i.e rambling, without checking on the reaction of others? Are we being held as as hostage by the speaker? It is easy for any of us to lapse into a monologue without going to a deeper level with others.
One idea to periodically dispense with talking stick mode and encourage a freer, less focused exchange.
A second idea is to merely ask the speaker what he wants from the group around his issue.
A third idea is for the "leader" (i.e. host) to ask other men to share their perception of the process.
Encourage members to open with their feelings in regards to what is bothering them in the group.
Encourage members to be patient with each other and not to judge each other too quickly.
Encourage members to look at conflicts with each other as a potential area for personal growth.
"The worst way of dealing with conflict is the men talking with each other except the one(s) they have conflict with. The "rumor mill" will kill a group. Moving toward conflict is the best way to deal with it. Encorage two men having a conflict to talk together rather than to you or another go-between. However, they might need a moderator present to keep things moving. Your goal then is to get people to move toward each other. First, speak the unspoken. If there is a conflict, voice it so everyone can hear, put "the elephant" on the table, stop the rumor mill. Second, get people in conflict talking and re-establish the relationship. Pass the talking stick around and around until the conflict is dealt with. A good 'round to use is have everyone answer a question such as: "What are you feeling right now?" Encourage the men to not use vague feeling words,but shoot for Glad, Sad, Mad, Afraid. There are other rounds you can use, but focus on the feelings first rather than a practical solution or advice.
Wabash Men's Council
It has been my experience after leading and being in
men's groups myself for over 15 years that when a group or a member is not running well it can be attributed to many things. However the number one
culprit of them all is "Lack of Safety" and number two "Lack of Support." Many men's groups still feel a need to focus on conflict and that's fine as long as the safety and support is there to do so. Also when people say they "want to be friends" I say have you got a year or two to put into the "friendship".How long should it take a group of 7, 8, 9, 10 men to become friends?
In the 20 years our group has been together, we have dealt with conflict in many ways. We've talked it through, gone on retreats, worked on trust issues, dealt with unresolved issues with fathers and father figures that were being projected on each other, and hired a "family" therapist to help our group of male brothers deal with issues.
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