Outline of T-Group 2.0 Practice

The Three Levels of Communication

  1. Ritual - rote pieces of almost scripted communication that let us make introductions, acknowledge one another, and convey goodwill (ex. "Hi, how are you?" "I'm fine, thanks. How are you?"). 
  2. Exchange - discussions and conversations about topics, opinions, stories, data, analyses, ideas etc. Communication and connection do happen here, but the topic acts as a "third party" in the conversation, which splits our attention between the person speaking (who exists in the "here & now") and the topic (which exists in the "there & then"). 
  3. Depth - when the topic falls away, all that's left is you, me, and the relationship, which can only take place in the here & now of the present moment. When the thing and the words about the thing are happening in the same time and place, the listener's attention only needs to be in one place - this allows for deeper connection and contact. 

It can be surprisingly difficult to tell the difference between Levels 2 and 3 when you're in the flow of a T-Group, and there is somewhat of a gray area between them that we refer to as "Level 2.5 Communication." On Level 2.5, you are sharing information that is from the "there & then" of the past, but it is so personal and vulnerable that it creates a very real experience as you share it in the "here & now." Vivid though the experience may be for you, it still has the effect of splitting your listeners' attention between the you of the "here & now" and the images of the "there & then" that they have to put up in their minds' eyes to follow what you're saying. We do work some with Level 2.5, as you'll see when you join us for a Sunday Night Gathering, but we do aim to speak and relate on Level 3 as much as we possibly can. 

  • Some of us like to practice with "the thirty second window," meaning that we only speak to things that have happened within the last thirty seconds. This strengthens our ability to track what's happening and speak to it in real-time.

* The Three Levels of Communication has been adapted from the article, "Five Levels of Interpersonal Communication: A Model that Works Across Cultures," by Richard P. Francisco, Ph. D. Read the full article here.

The Feedback Process - A Further Refinement of Level 3 Communication

There are two kinds of feedback to offer another person: 

  • Appreciative Feedback - giving someone insight into how, specifically, we are having an experience that is positive, enlivening, nourishing, or enriching in response to simply being in their presence, or to what they've said or done (to you or to another).
  • Differentiating Feedback - giving someone insight into how, specifically, we are having an experience that is challenging, confusing, difficult, or painful in response to simply being in their presence, or to what they've said or done.

*Appreciative and Differentiating Feedback are concepts adapted from the Matrix Leadership Institute. Learn more here.

Whether we're giving Appreciative or Differentiating feedback in a T-Group, we use the same four steps: 

  1. When you _________.
    • Give specific, observable data that involves as little interpretation/story as possible. 
  2. I feel _______.
    • Ensure this is a feeling, and not a story (see the distinction below). 
  3. The story that generates the feeling is _________.
    • What story do you have to tell yourself internally in order for the feeling to emerge?
  4. The impact on our connection is _______. 
    • Does the connection feel stronger and more established, or does it feel strained, stretched, possibly even ruptured? Do you feel closer or further away? Do you have more trust and openness or less?

Some things to note...

  • Feelings & Not-Feelings - in everyday communication, we use many words to describe feelings that aren't actually feelings. Examples include: loved, judged, validated, attacked, seen, and valued. Each of these words has embedded within it a story about what the other person has done/is doing. So instead of saying, "I feel seen," in a T-Group, we would say, "I feel happy, warm, and grateful, and the story is that you see and understand me." Often, words that end in -ed are stories and not feelings.
    • Likewise, if you use the phrase, "I feel like____," or, "I feel that____," whatever comes next is probably not a feeling. We often say things like, "I feel like you're judging me," which is a story, not a feeling. Since no one can argue with what you feel, transforming story into feeling is a way we make our own stories more real and more difficult to argue with. 
    • We are also training ourselves out of using phrases like, "You made me feel ____," or "This makes me feel____." Instead, we simply say, "I feel ____." 
  • Present Moment Thought Process vs. Proliferating Thought Process - when we say, "The story that generates the feeling is ______," we understand that it is not an invitation to go into lengthy explanation, justification, or narrative. We're acknowledging that the mind had to tell itself a short, quick story (in other words, it had to generate interpretation and meaning) in order for the feeling to arise. For example, "When you look down at your feet, I feel nervous, sad and a little bit scared. The story that generates the feeling is, 'You're not listening to me and you don't care.'" The story will rarely be much longer than that. 

The Two Translations and The Fifth Step

The first translation is done by the giver of feedback, when they attempt to translate their raw, physical/emotional, embodied experience into language. Both the giver and the receiver understand that this can be challenging, and that even the most accurate and complete set of words will only ever be an approximation. 

  • As the person giving feedback, recognize that your inner experience is like a mosaic that has many pieces and forms a complete image, but you need to transmit each little piece in order for the receiver to see the same image you're seeing. And if you leave pieces out, they will have to fill in the blanks, which will compromise their comprehension. 

The second translation is done by the receiver of feedback, when they interpret and make meaning out of the speaker's words. We each have different meanings attached to different words. 

So, the fifth step in the feedback process is for the receiver to say, "What I'm hearing is____." Giver and receiver go back and forth in this way until both acknowledge comprehension - and then the receiver can go into his/her responses to the feedback. 

Ground of Health - Our First Priority

Ground of Health is the foundation of basic goodwill and respect that we hold with and for one another. We agree to be gentle and patient with each other, recognizing that we are all learning, doing the best we can with what we have in the moment, and that we're all in a relatively vulnerable experience together.

By actively seeking to establish connection with everyone in the group, we weave together the threads that form a sturdy fabric - one that can support the weight of more challenging, intense interactions. We also agree to bring intensely differentiating feedback only to connections that have enough Ground of Health to support it. We understand that we get to the deep places and do the most meaningful and transformative work when we're standing on a solid ground of connectedness and safety.

A further note on safety - as the organizer, teacher, and facilitator of these groups, there's a lot I can do to create a culture of kindness and safety, and I always welcome feedback on how I can improve. At the same time, safety isn't something that can come from one person - it comes from all of us making and keeping a commitment to the Ground of Health of our community. Furthermore, T-Group is not intended to be a space that's safe from triggers; rather, it's a space where it's safe to be triggered. While intentionally attempting to upset another person would injure Ground of Health and is therefore not advised, we recognize that moments of irritation, upset, anger, hurt, and so on are inevitable in this kind of practice - in fact, when we engage these moments using the tools and processes of T-Group, they often provide some of the richest learning experiences. 

*Ground of Health is a concept that has been adapted from the Matrix Leadership Institute. Learn more here

The 4 Basic Agreements of T-Group Practice

  1. Establish, Maintain, and Commit to Ground of Health - actively seek to make a connection with every member of the group. This does not mean liking everyone or having positive feelings about them - it means establishing the pipeline through which energy and information can flow, conveying basic goodwill and respect, and recognizing that everyone is doing the best they can with what they have in their process of learning and growth.
  2. Witness Yourself - the tools of Level 3 Communication and the Feedback Process are there to facilitate you in observing yourself at increasingly deep and nuanced levels. "Doing it right" is less important than simply observing what occurs and how your system responds to it. Ultimately, there is no "right" way to T-Group, and there isn't a specific outcome we're looking for, other than making discoveries about ourselves, about connection and intimacy, and about the dynamics of group process.
  3. Confidentiality & No Followup - you are welcome to speak to anyone outside of T-Group about your own experience, but not to reveal anyone else's identity or their experience. Further, if you run into a fellow T-Group person in the world, please don't follow up with them about their experience (or bring it up in any way). If you want to speak to them about your experience, please ask them first if that is okay with them. 
  4. Radical Self-Responsibility - when we state the feeling and the story that generated the feeling, we're acknowledging that we are the source of our own experience. So, when we feel triggered, hurt, upset, and so on, Radical Self-Responsibility means that we first look to ourselves to discover how we have made interpretations and meanings that gave rise to the experience we are having, rather than blaming the people we're engaging with as though they were the source of our experience. We also acknowledge that ultimate responsibility for our own experience and wellbeing rests with us alone. 
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T-Group 2.0 Practice by Crystallin Dillon, MA is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.