This is a partner post to our Matrixworks podcast, Episode 5! (Click here to listen to the episode in the iTunes store)
Today we will be continuing on the topic from last week: What are the necessary components of leaders and members so that group work can be transformational and nourishing for the members?
The following are some specific skills useful for group leaders. These are generally accepted as basic, necessary components of leadership:
– Active listening: listening to content, but also paying attention to voice and body language. Find ways to use yourself so that the person speaking really feels heard. This is common to a basic counseling skill set, but more complex in a group. Let’s take a look at how this translates to reality: Take for example working with group of 12. You as the leader are listening to the person speaking and also watching how the others are responding. It can be extremely helpful to have a co-facilitator so that while one person is speaking, the other can watch the group and their reactions to what is being said. This makes members feel really seen and heard, perhaps as never before. This is a complex skill because you want the listening to actually call forth more and more truth & authenticity from the member who is speaking. You are listening the member into speaking more deeply!
– Reflection: this does 2 things. It helps group members become more aware of what they’re saying, and it also communicates to the speaker that you are aware and you have joined with this speaker at the level at which they’re speaking. When leader is reflecting, it’s also an opportunity for the group leader to broaden from the person who is speaking and make it applicable to more group members. For example, to broaden out to group the leader might say, “I wonder if anyone else here has these same concerns? I would just like to see the hands of people who have also felt troubled by ___.” This supports the sharer to understand that they aren’t alone, which is one of the main healing components in group work. So much of each individual’s pain and suffering is really a part of the universal human experience. This shift in perspective allows us to take ourselves less seriously, find humor in challenges, feel that we are a human family, and that we all have challenges that help us grow.
– Clarifying: this requires real attention because you don’t want this to slip into giving advice. Clarifying helps the speaking member of the group make a distinction between a part of a situation, person, or experience and the whole of that topic. For example, a girl says she hates her father. Through clarification she can realize that she only feels frustrated with some of his behavior and really doesn’t hate all of him. This technique is very useful especially for younger group members.
– Empathizing: one of the most healing skills. So much work about mirror neurons in brain has come out recently, really giving us the biology of empathy. Empathy simply means that you can walk in the shoes of the other and feel for and with them. It shows that you can grasp their experience, but also that you don’t get lost in it (retain sense of self).
– Interrupting and confronting: today’s most important and most difficult skill to learn. In my journey, I found that if I didn’t interrupt a person who was going on and on, that actually they ended up being scapegoated or not feeling a sense of belonging, and that was much worse than the awkwardness of my interruption. Here is an example: a member of a group was telling the same story over and over in different ways. I physically moved closer to her and asked if I could come and put a hand on her knee. I asked if she felt like we were with her right now as she was telling her story. She said, “No, I feel like people are bored and I’m not feeling understood.” I asked her to summarize what she was wanting us to know as follows: “What’s most important to me in what I was trying to say is….” and I used my body language to show her that I really heard and understood what she was trying to say. I then asked her, “Would you be willing to look around and see how people were affected by what you had to say?” This time people really heard her and felt compassion. If I hadn’t interrupted, she would have felt isolated, alone, and disengaged.
I hope that these essential leadership skills are of use to you in your group work. As always, please comment and share your thoughts!