“Community” is a phrase we hear everywhere these days. Unfortunately, the tools necessary to create and sustain healthy community are often less available than the numerous efforts towards community. Often, a group can get bogged down by a member who does not share the goals of the group. The absence of a commitment to self reflection or capacity for clear communication limit the potential of any group.
As we go forward with an intention to reestablish bonds of community in every sphere of our lives, it is helpful to have concepts and tools to nurture and encourage healthy and authentic interaction. In a healthy group setting, it is the capacity of each individual for responsible and honest interaction that becomes the glue of structural integrity.
Conscious communication includes:
~awareness of the power of the words we use
~awareness of conscious and unconscious agendas we carry
~ the use of affirmative language
~the use of “I” statements – speaking in personal terms about what we experience/know
~the use of specific examples rather than speaking in generalizations
~the distinction between feelings and thoughts
~allowance for pregnant pauses and silence
~attention to the meta level -what is underneath the conversation.
Clear intention allows for clear focus. This involves each member of the group and the group itself setting their intentions.
Respect of other members is made easier when we trust and respect our own inner truths. The more at peace we are, the more we can respect the opinions of others. The more we can speak from an authentic place that integrates both heart and head, the more accessible our expression is to others.
Responsibility includes taking care of our own emotional landscapes. We do not use the community as the place to work out our personal issues, unless this is an intention of the group.
Clarity in how we express ourselves is enhanced when we understand our own learning styles and how they differ from those of others. Making room for all styles is the only way to be truly inclusive.
Safety in any group setting is cultivated by having clear expectations, boundaries and skilled facilitation. In a culture that does not teach or emphasize the skills necessary to cultivate healthy community – we do not ask for, or expect healthy dynamics. Thus, we develop habits of camouflage to manage indirect, dishonest and unconscious communication. The more we can step beyond our habits of protection, the more we can create a model for safe and healthy interaction.