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Men's Groups

Group Check-In

An Exercise from Talking with Our Brothers


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Courage to Love
Geo and his wife Deborah have s a Courage to Love Web site on relationships
George and Deborah
WHEN YOU START YOUR GROUP: IMPORTANT EXERCISES
GROUP CHECK-IN, Discussion
IMPORTANT GROUP DISCUSSION TOPICS: PERSONAL DYNAMICS
Title Group Check-in
Type Discussion
Description
This basic activity provides a safe way for men to tell their ongoing stories to the group. Although i
it seems so simple, the activity is so valuable that some groups do it to the exclusion of other exercises.
A quality of listening and of support in it is deeply nourishing to us.

Steps
1. The leader for the night starts the group in the usual way.
2. Optional: The leader can start with a short guided meditation in which he invites the men to
breathe into their bodies, to let go of the errands of the day, and to find the deep truth that they want
to share tonight.
3. Each man takes five-fifteen minutes (depending upon the agreement that night) to tell group
members on how his life is going. He can talk about anything he wants for that period of time; the group
and the leader should help the man emphasize the emotional content of his experience.
4. Optional: Sometimes after each man shares, the group can take a few minutes to give him
feedback.
5. The next man takes his turn, until all men have checked-in.
6. The group leader then closes the group in the usual way.

Comments
What seems like a simple exercise takes on an emotional richness over time, as men find listeners and
supporters for their life's pains and victories. This acknowledgment feeds a man's need for love and
affection, and helps him feel better about himself and his life.
I look forward to my group's bi-weekly check-ins, since I draw strength from watching men I know so
well wrestle with their life issues with courage and awareness. I know that I don't have to hide myself
there; all my awkward, embarrassing, weak parts can be acknowledged, as well as my power and my
successes.

Often a man's issue will create group discussion or evoke group support, or often a man will have
strong feelings while he is sharing. These developments can effect how long a man's story will be. A
solution to timing problems is to have a clear ground rule: Everyone will take ten minutes. And then
the group should agree if someone wants more time. Otherwise some men will start feeling anxious
about their turn, who's in charge, etc.

Title Important Group Discussion Topics: Personal Dynamics
Type Discussion
Description These exercises help men to talk about personal dynamics which will emerge as the group meets.
The power of groups is that they magnify old communication and personality patterns, in an
environemnt where we can observe them and change them. The open discussion of such core topics
creates group safety and cohesion.

Steps
1. The leader for the night starts the group in the usual way.
2. He starts a group discussion by asking one of the following questions.
A. Greatest Fear: What is my greatest fear in this group? What might go wrong that would
hurt me?
B. Creating and Avoiding Intimacy: What method would I use to stay isolated from the group?
(Humor, sarcasm, criticism of others, spacing out, not coming.)
C. Family Patterns: What family patterns do I feel are evoked by my participation in the group?
D. Dominance: Who dominates the airtime in the group? What is he talking about during this
time? How do the group members feel at these times? Interested, passive, angry, bored?
E. Truthtelling: Are men committed to truthtelling instead of blaming? Are they willing to practice
being self-responsible?
3. Men go around the circle and answer whichever question the group leader has recommended.
4. Open dialogue can follow after the whole group has commented on a question.
5. The leader closes the group in the usual way.

Comments
Please refer to Chapter 3 for more information about topics B-E; these topics come from the list of issues
that cause the group to have communication problems. This particular exercise requires men to talk about
the inner experience of the group, and it asks the members to be vulnerable and non-blaming.
In Chapter Nine: Stages of the Group, Plateaus and Problems, I bring up these same questions again,
because the group is always working with them, either consciously or unconsciously. These discussions
should take several weeks, if each question is asked and investigated deeply. The group should take its
time. Care taken here will help solve a lot of questions and problems that can come up later in the group.

These activities are taken from a longer chapter in Talking with Our Brothers, about activities which you can use when your group appears to be stagnating or having communication problems. Sorry, the book is currently out of print. E-mail me if you eant to be notified if it is again available.

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