Enlivening Your Mens Group
Men Being Real… Being Connected… Staying Connected…
This resource is intended to provide tips, techniques and principles which support men’s groups. It has been developed by Haydn Staples and Andrew Duncan in consultation with the Essentially Men community. Click the following link for more information on the origins of this document.
Why Men’s Groups?
Men often enjoy getting together as a regular group. Groups build connections between men and men’s communities and work to counteract the isolation some men experience. Men’s groups are a valuable source of personal development for men building relationship skills, leadership skills, emotional awareness, self esteem, general life skills and healing.
Men’s groups work to counteract the isolation some men experience. Some have difficulty developing and sustaining gratifying inter-personal relationships.
Benefits of men’s groups:
Close strong relationships give meaning and satisfaction to our lives through:
- Joy – Closeness in the group can be invigorating and joyous. A Sufi master says the key to happiness is: “Surround yourself with those whom you love and who love you.”
- Increased self-awareness – Seeing ourselves as others see us; Feedback; How can you know yourself without the mirror of other people?
- Feelings in the group – Another major contribution of men’s groups to their members is to develop their capacity to be aware of their feelings, communicate them, feel other group members’ feelings (see empathy below) and be able to bear difficult feelings in themselves and other group members. Men’s groups will gradually develop their capacity as a group to manage the intense feelings of group members.
- Healing – An intimate group is a healing group. For instance, it teaches us that we are not as bad as we may have concluded from painful relationship experiences. What men often recall about their group experiences is the positive, supportive statements from other men.
- Enhanced self esteem – To be valued and loved by a group; to help others and be helped, raises our self esteem and increases our inner self worth.
- Personal growth – We are rough diamonds shaped and polished by the intimacy of the group so that the inner gem becomes visible.
- Connection – Friendship, Support, Acceptance and better ability to deal with difficult situations and feelings.
Key Principles for Men’s Groups
- Commitment – by the members and the group to attend, to communicate, to take responsibility for the effectiveness of the group, to keep the agreed structures of the group and to deepen connection within the group.
- Communication – of thoughts and feelings as they are experienced in the moment to group members; emotional honesty. This is the key to deep connection in the group and the positive effects of the group. Unconditional acceptance of members’ communications. Asking for and accepting support. Giving heartfelt feedback – spontaneous, honest and caring about the capacity of the receiver to accept it. No speeches, no small talk, with “I” statements, and a minimum of interruption.
- Conflict – Persistent empathy will help to heal the group in conflict. It diffuses anger and confrontation. Managing conflict requires accepting difference; not begrudgingly but celebrating the opportunity to learn and grow.
- Safety and Trust – When members feel safe they open up. Confidentiality is an essential ingredient for group safety.
- Structue: – Every group has its own structures which contribute to aliveness and safety. When structures get too loose the group may to fall apart. It takes a very strong group to function well with little structure.
- Leadership – Good leadership is helpful for a well functioning men’s group and men’s groups develop leadership in their members. Democracy is basic – everything is negotiated and agreements made. Many groups rotate leadership so that each member takes turns facilitating the meetings. Some groups share the leadership so fully that they may refer to shared facilitation.
- The Group, Our Partners, Our Family and Our Friends – You don’t have to tell anyone outside the group anything of your own experience in the group; it is your private growth space.
Click the following link for more information on Key Principles for a Healthy Men’s Group.
Men’s groups offer a wonderful contribution to men’s lives. With commitment and understanding of what is needed to make a group work men can expect an enriching experience.