This past Saturday I had the priveledge of participating in a retreat with six other men. Ryan Taylor facilitated it and has a great summary of our discussion and purpose on his blog. My next few blog posts may come from a few things that especially struck me during our time together, but one of the things that impressed me most had nothing to do with what we talked about–it was the way this group approached dialogue.
To Ryan’s credit, at the beginning he encouraged us to really listen to each other and not be too quick to respond. That is truly what happened. That day together really made me think about how to create group interaction that is respectful, thoughtful, and productive. Here are a few of the things I’m taking away from Saturday in regard to group interaction.
- It is rare to find a group that can listen to each other well. On Saturday there were very seldom times where someone talked over someone else or even jumped in as soon as someone finished to head off in a different direction. I admit there were many times I wanted to fill the silence with whatever was in my head, but I’m so glad that thanks to Ryan’s encouragement not to and the Holy Spirit telling me to be silent that I didn’t. Our conversation was so much deeper because we took the time to really hear each other.
- In a group like that the conversation develops internal rhythms. Many times during the day there was a specific direction the conversation went where two or three people were doing most of the talking. But invariably those would be followed by times where those who had been talking didn’t say much and others took their turn to really dive in. It wasn’t forced and I don’t think anyone planned for it, but it was great.
- A group like this leads quickly to trust and vulnerability. I only knew Ryan heading into this retreat, but a couple hours in I already felt very comfortable with the other and willing to open up to deeper things about myself. It felt safe to risk a little bit. How often do we spend months and years around others without feeling we could trust them and get into the deeper, more difficult parts of life? This reminded me that posture toward others and the way we listen are as important as amount of time spent together.
I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on why groups you’ve been in have or haven’t worked.