Groupwork Institute Blog

How to turbo-charge the connection in your group

In a meeting room, two seated people, a man and a woman are looking at each other, while another woman stands between them, trying to intervene in their frowning interaction

How can you increase the listening in your team?

All groups are challenged by the stuff that comes up between the people in them.

Whenever a group is doing a task, your need for recognition can play out in less than helpful ways.  Opinions and ideas become precious things to protect or argue for … and when the stakes and passion run high, generating a collaborative mix of what’s brought into the room can feel like a dwindling ideal.

Enter self-awareness. When you become aware of your own behaviour as potentially unhelpful input in a group process, there’s a glimmer of hope that your talking will diminish and your listening will increase.  To be self-aware is to end the projection of a problem onto others and begin a process of self-discovery, which can be both humbling and painful.

Let’s face it, it’s much easier to place the problem outside of ourselves than to take ownership of it as our own potential limitation.

A. “That woman was out of control!”

B. “That woman was so upset she could no longer hear what people were saying.”

See the difference that self-awareness can bring to this situation? The first statement locks the person and the behaviour into being one and the same, while the second seeks to understand the context for a behaviour that could be anyone’s, given the circumstance.

Self-aware people are able to see a bigger picture of human interaction.  Cause and effect operate at every moment, and there are no passive players. So if someone is yelling at you, as a self-aware person your go-to question might be:

“What am I doing (or NOT doing) that is playing into this dynamic right now?” 

With this approach, you have agency and capacity to influence the situation. On the other hand, if you judge a person and lay the wrongdoing at their feet, you actually limit your options; there’s nothing you can do from this position because it’s ‘their fault’.

So in choosing to become self-aware, we actually liberate ourselves.

Because now, we see that we CAN take action – we can change OUR behaviour!

Anyone who changes their own behaviour shifts the dynamic in the group they’re working within as well.  As one person takes responsibility for what they’re doing or saying, others will respond in kind:

“What you’re saying makes no sense!” will elicit a defensive response.  There is disconnection.

Whereas:  “I’m struggling to understand what you’re saying, but it sounds important … Can you say that again?” helps people to connect.

A self-aware facilitator or leader can help shift the culture and dynamic of a group by building connection in this way.

Whenever there is connection, people are more able to hear each other, which creates a willingness to let go of strong opinions, and this can create an environment for collaboration. Connection is contagious. People LONG to connect more than anything else. With more connection comes the realisation that there’s more that we share in common than what sets us apart.

The self-awareness journey might start painfully.

The challenging part is where you admit that, yes, there ARE things that I’m doing that are making this situation worse. There ARE things I’m doing that I don’t like. There ARE things that I’m doing that I’ve been trying to hide from myself as being my responsibility. But now … now, I’m prepared to look at them and own them.

This is where you get that turbo-charge in your group or team, fuelled by courage and compassion for yourself and others.

If you’re interested in developing your skills in working well with others, you can book into our facilitation or collaborative leadership short courses, or engage our facilitators for customised workplace training or services for your group or organisation.

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