March 1, 2013

Logic versus Personal Space

by Herb Klitzner

What an incredible group last night! Getting deep into the issues of relationships after half an hour, but with a momentarily stop-all-action detour when expectations of two participants diverged, and the logical of one became the personal for the other. And a challenge for the moderator.

In the session I moderated, the trigger event was set by one woman realizing how well you need to come to know yourself to be able to expect the right things for you in a relationship – this was after a promising  relationship abruptly ended.

A second woman asked the first woman a logical question – “so do you understand yourself now?” It was too personal, too sudden, understandably so in retrospect. Yet for some other people, it would not cause batting an eyelash.

There are some discomforts that you just can’t easily predict. Two people who are asked the same identical question may feel very differently about whether they want to answer it. Of course, that is a key principle – no one has any obligation to answer a question if he/she is not comfortable with the question.

The group and the moderator have an interest in making sure the experience stays comfortable. That’s what brings out the deeper things, and makes people want to come back for more of those deeper things.

The moderator, participants, and even a participant with a specific sensitivity may not see a matter coming that will turn out to be sensitive. If that happens, they should just use common sense and good will, and have a desire to move forward and continue to enjoy each others’ company, thoughts, and expression.

This will happen, inevitably. The moderator simply needs to acknowledge the feelings of the participant, and the deep interest in maintaining the integrity, wholesomeness, and momentum of the group process. If that is felt by all, people will find a way to move on and take advantage of the tremendous possibilities of this wholesome and smart group of dedicated people, regardless of momentary real upsets.

The moderators does not need to fix anything (except refer to and uphold basic standards if needed), just acknowledge what happened, , maybe why it happened, and then underline the importance of the group and the generative principle of comfort and trust.

The value of the group to all of us produces the dynamic we need. If the person is still dissatisfied, then perhaps structured conversations are not the kind of experience that the person is looking for. But a night’s sleep may change even this outlook and should be given a chance by the person.

A second kind of issue came up later by the same person who experienced the sensitivity – an expectation that demographic and life histories were going to be balanced in the group. I won’t go into this except to say that we try to take what we get in people sign-up and distribution, and make the most of it – of each individual’s unique situation, outlook, and style. The only balancing we might try to do sometimes is to somewhat balance out the sexes for more interest, but this is not necessary and cannot always be done, because of who registers.

Our job, as moderators and facilitators, is to appreciate who is there at the table, respect their interests, and let each person’s contributions rise from the interaction. For the moderator, this is indeed a privilege.

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