Possible Methods for How Group Members
Can Support Each Other with Their Self-Development
(whether they belong to an activist organization,
a human service agency, a book club, or some other group)
- Open with Silence -- begin meetings with a moment of silence to allow time for members to meditate, pray, or perhaps reflect on the upcoming agenda.
- Intimate Check-ins -- at the outset of meetings, have members report briefly on their recent self-development effort(s).
- Issue Discussions -- sponsor conversations on racial-justice or other key issues and/or co-sponsor such events with other groups.
- Shared Affirmations -- have the group endorse a statement of principles and values that encourages members to support each other in their self-development, such as "Change Myself, Change the World: A Commitment".
- One-on-one Interactions -- methods group members can use to support each other apart from official meetings.
- Ask Questions -- when you meet with friends, ask many questions, not just one or two polite ones. Be curious. Ask follow-up questions to deepen your understanding of how other people view themselves and the world. See what you can learn. Talk less and listen more. Watch screens less and connect with humans more. These simple questions work well: Why? Why not? How did you feel about that? What are you feeling? How might you achieve that goal? Can you tell me more? What’s been on your mind lately? Other options include: What’s your passion? What’s the purpose of your life? Why not ask questions like that and listen carefully to the answers? Improve your friendships by becoming a better listener.
- Twenty Questions -- take turns with a friend asking twenty questions, keeping in mind that the purpose for doing so is to get to know each other more fully. Answer the questions briefly, spontaneously, and honestly. Afterwards, take some time to reflect on the experience together. Do the same with a group of friends, taking turns. If it’s a fairly large group, maybe limit answers to thirty seconds and select respondents randomly, to add a bit more fun to the “game.”
- Listening Dyads -- meet with a friend, agree on how much time you will have together, and divide the time equally. Then, first one of you, and then the other, reports on what has been happening in her or his life and what she or he has been thinking and feeling. Listeners interrupt only to ask a question to clarify something they did not understand. The person talking may use some of her or his time to ask for advice or information, or she or he may just report. Allow five minutes at the end of the exchanges to reflect on the experience and consider making plans for another.
- Informal Groups -- some ways group members can meet informally apart from official meetings to support each other with their self-development.
- Personal Discussions -- a member presents a poem, aphorism, song, essay or some other meaningful piece for discussion. The group meets regularly, perhaps monthly. It sets a time limit, such as one hour or ninety minutes. To assure rapport and trust, membership may be by invitation only, with the group deciding on invitations.
- Soul Sessions -- invite a close friend to decide on a third person to join the two of you in “speaking from the heart” confidentially. That’s it. No other agenda. The gatherings take place in a person’s home or at a community center. Before adjourning, evaluate the session, consider inviting others, and decide together who if anyone will be invited. If the group grows to include several or more individuals, consider using a “talking stick” that involves speakers recognizing the next speaker by handing them an object.
- A Mutual Support Network -- develop a loose network of groups that encourage their members to support each other with their self-development, and establish ways they can occasionally share information about their efforts.