Tools for Vulnerable Connection/Tension/Conflict/Communication Development?

I’m interested in hearing from long-time community livers, movers and shakers, designers and changers, about ways to break out of communication ruts.
Our community is fairly new and some of us think we might be ready for a new meeting structure, a new membership renewal process, a new way to communicate in times of conflict.
We don’t really have much structure especially around conflict, tension, or difficulty.
We currently use Peter Woodrow’s Clearness process for yearly membership meetings, and for adding new members, but that process works differently (more or less well) for folks depending on how well they prepare or engage with that process.

Any recommendations for how to add new energy into a group, especially with folks at different levels of interest in that change?

We discussed a Circle Way training but had some resistance in the group.

The best I can offer is looking up communication skills & designating at least one moderator in case the discussion gets out of hand. I also offer the “What I hear you say is” communication tool. It can be annoying, yet can also be helpful and save time having to clarify later. Many skills, such as physical skills, can be mixed as long as the communication is clear and helps declutter the understanding. I hope this helps and tensions lessen.

**Disclaimer: I’m in no way a licensed practitioner nor a Dr. of any type/form. The above are simply suggestions & nothing more.

We already use a facilitator during most types of meetings, but perhaps we need a refocusing or training for those of us in the facilitation rota.
We also use reflection… but not often enough likely.
We also use the phrase “what I hear you say is…” for reflection and “I have a story that…” to talk about patterns or perceptions we have.

I am looking more concretely for links to resources, courses, and recommendations for how to onboard community members who might be resistant to do doing this work.

I always thought of eagerness to doing this work as sort of a baseline requirement for community. What’s brought y’all to think of it differently?

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We’re people and we’re tired… We already have 2-4 hours of meetings a week, so adding a whole 'nother meeting for this kind of work would be a lot.

I’ll just say again:

I am looking more concretely for links to resources, courses, and recommendations for how to onboard community members who might be resistant to do doing this work.

Perhaps lessons or practices or roleplays to incorporate into our weekly house meetings or something.

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That makes sense. We just have one small meeting a week, and a larger one once a month, and it can be pretty tiring sometimes. It can be hard to muster the enthusiasm for it.

I hope it didn’t feel like I was saying y’all were wrong to make community accessible to people who are may be right now resistant to doing this work; just curious about how you think about it.

I’m hearing that you have some people who need to be included in the meeting / communication / conflict process but who are resistant to participating, and you’re looking for ways to teach them how to participate despite their resistance to the idea. Is that right?

If I understand that right, I don’t know of any resources like that… are you trying to help them feel more enthusiastic about it, and reduce their resistance? Or is it more like “yeah this sucks but we need to do it anyways so you need to know how to do it”?

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I could say more, but I think really it’s about something we can plug and play? Something that we can add to our existing meetings perhaps. And I’d say that perhaps some of the people are resistant because they think our systems are good enough. But others think we could use a jolt of new energy or process.

I’ll also say that we’re doing fine. I posted my topic to engage with this new forum, hopefully pick the brains of very experienced community members, people who have more years living in community than we do. We have an average of about 5 years each at this point…

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Wow, thanks cicadathebug. Peter Woodrow was one of my teachers of group process way back in the early 80s. Lost touch with him since. Nice reminder of the “good ol days”.

I have been a consultant for ICs for decades. I teach facilitation, mediation, creative conflict resolution, and effective communication skills. I have also developed and teach a model of decision making called Values-based Consensus (formally Formal Consensus). I am available for phone/Zoom consultations and would consider in-person trainings as/if the pandemic recedes.

I have an entire toolkit full of ideas and activities that would address the problem you think you have. However, it is my suspicion that your issues with participation in the group process is deeper and more difficult to resolve that you are aware. [Generally, groups find it difficult to hear what I have to say about group process, even if they can perceive it might be true for their group. I am happy to share techniques and skills (and games) if that’s what you want and you can ignore the rest of this post.]

It is my worldview that humans have 3 major neural centers: the brain (for thinking), the heart (for feeling) and the gut (for intuition; i.e., innate knowledge). I believe your values “live” in your gut. At this point in time, most people are cut off from their gut which means they have a hard time accessing or even knowing what their values are. Shared values are what creates meaningful connection between people. Knowing you share values with another is a very powerful connection.

My projection onto your situation is that you have a group of folks who share some values and not others. The shared values are what keeps you together. The unshared values are the cause of the apathy or conflicts. Without knowing it, I suspect the lack of participation is actually caused by the unwillingness to resolve underlying differences because most conflicts like this are resolved using some amount of domination (i.e., trying to win) and discomfort. Easier to avoid and deny than identify and resolve.

IMO, the most important thing your group can do to encourage participation (and create an open, sustainable, safe, supportive, and nurturing community) is to identify, define and use (in decision making) your common group values. I have already developed the process of using values to make decisions in my book, On Conflict and Consensus. I am willing to share my process for identifying and defining both personal values and commonly held group values.

There is so much more.


Thank you for your thorough engagement! I will put you on the list of possible mediators/trainers that we are compiling in case of “emergency” or if we get enough energy to go through with some active shifts in our decision making/conflict mediation process.

I KNOW you are spot on about where our issue is, because I have known for a long time that there are fundamental disagreements about some values within the group.

We went through a Holistic Goal process when we were 5 members and before we formed our legal entities and this did get us to focus on shared values for a while. We haven’t had the document be as much of a LIVING document as we would like, not being referenced during decision making and such…
and our size is now 9 members… and most were not around during the creation of that document.

I am really interested in revisiting the document so that we can redirect our energy towards our shared values which you have so earnestly recommended.
Thank you!

Glad you picked-up on the fact that I am majorly focused on values these days. In fact, I’m currently working on a book about values. Just know that values are slippery things. At the personal level, very, extremely subjective. It is at the group level of common values that values can become defined and used objectively. Failure to identify and define common values prevents any meaningful group discussion about values because all the values you are talking about are subjective, personally held values, and projections and assumptions about other peoples subjective values. It gets really messy. Identify and define common values first. [By define, I mean at least 1 or 2 sentences which defines the value in question to which everyone in the group can consent; thereby giving the value a finite, concrete definition which allows it to be used objectively in decision making.]

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This is a fascinating post. I reas last night and it had me pondering as I was drifting off into sleep.

As an INFP I am very attuned and attracted to values and find relationships based on these are much more cohessive and authentic.

Very good things to chew on. Thanks for sharing!

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so cool to see this chain. my friend Katie and I are actually doing a workshop on this very thing next Friday for FIC May 13th at 12pm; here’s zoom link Launch Meeting - Zoom

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