Stories That Promote Group Dynamics
The Resource index presents a group of stories that can promote group dynamics just by reading the story and allowing participants to discuss the meaning they have received.
Stories allow people to discover parts of themselves that may have been forgotten or never developed or they may give a message that individuals can build on about their life. I’ve started many groups by just reading a story with no comments by me about the story. The way I use stories is as follows”
1. For the beginning of a community building workshop or an ongoing community group I read a story (often the Rabbi’s Gift -see link), then ask for some silence, usually 3 minutes, before the group talks. I do not ask them to talk about the story, but people often will for a period of time. Each person may get something different from the story and each adds to the other in a process of discovery about themselves.
2. Sometimes a group will get “stuck” in their process and need some kind of help to go on. Selecting a proper story helps get the group unstuck. I never comment on a story, but let the group get what they need from it. Sometimes when they “get it” they do not talk about it until much later if at all. I’ll give two examples:
I had a group that was “stuck” talking about trivial things that was NOT personal. This had gone on too long and they were not making progress. So I read a part of the Velveteen Rabbit (see story). Following the reading, I repeated some words from the story, “What does it mean to be real.”. Then asked for some silence before anyone talked. They picked up on the story theme and went forward.
Another case was in a 3-day public community building workshop. We had a very difficult person in this group that could not help his behavior. This person constantly interrupted others and did other unpleasant things that annoyed the people greatly, even outside the workshop. Several participants asked us to remove this person from the workshop. We seriously considered doing this but felt the group could learn from this person and they could be THE catalyst for the group going into emptiness and community.
Toward the end of the second day, three people wanted to form a “fish bowl” consisting of them and the person. We would never have allowed this. My coleader said to the group, “We have some more skills to learn before we are ready to do something like this, so we will wait till tomorrow.” They accepted this. We hoped they would let go of this overnight, but they didn’t. My coleader and I discussed how we would handle this if it came up the next day.
Within 15 minutes of the start of the next day, they asked for the fish bowl again. My coleader calmly said, “I want to tell you a story.” She read the Lima Bean story (see story). Following the story, the group sat very quietly for 5-10 minutes, then went on with their process with no mention of the story. They got the message. The group never mention the unruly person again and it seemed they instantly developed an acceptance. In the end, the group did learn considerable by having this person in the workshop. During the last hour, this person asked if he could sing Amazing Grace to the group and of course he did. There was not a dry eye in the circle.
Stories can set a theme for a group to build on when they are allowed to develop their own interpretations.