The Tenets of an Authentic Communication Group
The key to authentic communication is to open our hearts to each other. There is something beautiful about openness and vulnerability, whether expressing pain, fear, shame or joy. We all have a great need for these vulnerable parts of ourselves to be accepted, and the group support allows these parts to be witnessed and held with compassion.
Most group members find it in their nature to be loving and compassionate toward someone who reveals pain. If you find yourself unable to offer empathy or presence, it’s often because you have deep needs arising that want to be received and held.
The group can go deeper when the focus is on the group interactions, or on what is happening live in the moment. This means sharing your feelings towards others in the group, giving and receiving feedback, and experimenting with new behaviors. As you become aware of which parts are activated in the moment, you can speak for those parts. You can also share your feelings regarding your relationships with other group members.
This focus on interactive work means there isn’t much chit chat. Sometimes many people speak at once, and other times the group needs silence to process what has just happened.
Awareness is the ability to notice what you and others are feeling and needing in the moment. Changes in posture, bodily sensations, your breath, your voice, can all serve as indicators that feelings and needs are arising. Awareness of the group power dynamics can support a deeper level of authenticity, especially when you are willing to explore unacknowledged advantages of gender, race, class, age, sexual orientation, physical ability and more.
For example, if Kasha says that she thinks that men in the group take more air time than others, lots of feelings can arise. Sam feels hurt and says he wants to be seen as an individual, not as a male who takes too much air time. Bella feels scared and wants to support Sam, and says she enjoys hearing his voice and values his contributions. Denzel speaks for a part that is angry when a woman seems to be rescuing a man to maintain the hierarchical social structure.
The facilitator’s role is to slow down the process and help people explore their initial feelings and their deeper needs. All parts are welcome. All needs matter. Many levels of awareness become available, when the group holds spaciousness and care for whatever parts arise.
A big challenge for many people is hearing or expressing feelings of irritation, hurt, or discomfort. More intense feelings such as fear, anger, and jealousy are even harder to communicate. You may wonder how expressing feelings like these can help. You may be thinking:
- I don’t want to hurt him.
- I should just work on myself.
- It’s not a big deal, so why mention it.
- He probably won’t be receptive.
- She won’t be able to change.
- They might reject me.
In an Authentic Communication Group, you work on expressing feelings by speaking for the part rather than as the part. When you speak for a part, you are in Self as you describe the feelings of the part, “There is a part of me that is hurt because it wants me to have respect.” By speaking for your parts, you own your reactions to other people. Instead of attacking them or educating them, you can let them know how your parts are reacting to their parts. When a member of the group is speaking with intensity, remember that is not all of them, it’s simply a part of them. Every part has an opposite, but the opposite may not get much visibility.
When two or more people are involved in a conflict, they may express hurt or anger. They learn what parts get riled up, what parts want to calm things down and which exiles are being protected. They also learn how to communicate clearly and vulnerably. Rather than taking sides, the rest of the group supports both parties. Often relationships emerge stronger as a result of an intense interaction.
As the group builds trust, we expand inclusion, explore distribution of power, and revise the group norms. As commitment deepens, many people find the group becomes like a family – with an opportunity to heal old wounds and get the kind of parenting, or sisterhood, brotherhood or otherhood we’ve always wanted. As we connect with our hearts, we clarify our feelings and needs, and make requests that deepen relationships and honor courage.