CONFIDENTIALITY, RESPECT and 8 more Ground-rules:
Traditionally in a support group ‘what is said in the room stays in the room’ and we keep confidential what others say or do. This includes not talking to anybody else afterwards about who has been in the group and what was discussed, unless permission is given by an individual. However, we usually agree that we may discuss our own experience in the group and even refer to something that happened provided we are indirect and no one can be identified, e.g. “my friend said”, or “Something I saw on TV”. The choice can be as wide as one person saying: “You can tell anyone about what I’ve said and done here” to “nothing I’ve said or done here leaves this space”.
This means listening carefully to what others are saying. Be aware of how we are behaving, and treat others as we would expect to be treated ourselves. Respect is also self-respect, including our own truth, boundaries, feelings, instincts and intuition.
Encourage contribution by building on the views being expressed, but it would be better to authentically and honestly say “Pass” than to lie, perform, or go into automatic-pilot banter. Telling the truth and sharing ourselves openly gives everyone in the room safety and permission to do the same.
Be honest with ourselves – about how we are our feeling – because that way we can own our feelings and work things through, rather than internalise in silence and carry it until we find an opportunity to dump it on someone else (whether within or outside the group later).
Use “I” statements, rather than “you”, “one” or “we”. What is being said by you may not be true for all present. Depersonalising is often a way of avoiding ownership of a feeling, experience or issue.
SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND
Suggest rather than dictate, use open questions to explore issues raised, and suspend judgement until you have heard all viewpoints. This way everybody is supported and no one’s safety is compromised, and the group becomes an intimate space where we can learn how to express our differences, and, if it happens, disagree with another person clearly, honestly, honourably and with respect.
DIEALOG: one story at a time
When someone is telling their story, give them the space to express it from their experience, without judging how good, bad or upsetting it is; without jumping into / steering / boosting their story; without upstaging them with a more dramatic story, so they can listen to their own words and have the opportunity to work it through.
Explore who we are. We may perceive ourselves as a joker, peacemaker, shy, confident, introvert, extrovert, whatever personalities your circles are used to. Group space encourages us to experiment with allowing some of the unfamiliar parts inside to come out and see how authentic they feel and with the option of asking for feedback.
STAY UNTIL THE END
If something come up (say a bad experience around death or dying) that makes us feel uncomfortable, or brings up strong feelings like fear, anger or sadness, it would probably be better to work this through with the group. Or at least to name it rather than silently holding on to it and taking it away with us – if we do it can allow its power to take hold and overshadow us.
LIVE BEYOND THE RULES
Playing small to ‘be good’ will probably be less valuable than playing big and growing with the group. That’s not to say ‘break the rules’ but it is to say play big enough that we can express our differences and accept challenges so we can all grow in awareness and keep going on the onward journey together.