B. tools for dealing with emotions and deescalating methods

As I explained in the introduction of 1.1. feelings often don’t get enough time and space within meetings and are often treated as being unrelevant for “objective” discussions and constructive organisation of processes.

But if we don’t create an adequate space to communicate about emotions, conflicts may start to dominate the rest of the conversations. So we should create spaces in within our communication structure, where feelings will be heard. If there is not enough time in within the meetings for organisational tasks to meet the emotional needs of people, then create own meetings for all interested people, if necessary. (see A.6)

*B.1. dealing with emotions in meetings

B.1.1. introduction round

A very basic thing in group communication, and often forgot anyhow, are introduction flashlights. I was in many meetings, where people who did not know each other did not get the chance to introduce themselves or to say what they wish and expect from the meeting, and why they were there. I just nhever felt welcome in those meetings. And if that happens in bigger groups usually I don’t say anything for the rest of the meeting, having the feeling that they all knew each other and I’d be the only stranger.

I think it is very important to have an introduction round, where people have time to say who they are, and maybe why they are in that meeting – even if there is only one unknown face. It helps to integrate people and creates an atmosphere of more intimacy and better understanding.

If the group is too big, you could also split it into smaller groups and change one or two times. In worst case not everyone knows everyone else, but then still it is better when everyone knows a bit about some people.

There is one good trick about rememembering names: ask people to tell their name, then tell something about themselves, and then say their name again in the end. If people hear the name a second time, and connected with some information about the person, it will stay in their minds more easily.

B.1.2. emo flashlight rounds

Can help a lot in groups that know each other well, to not mix up feelings and opinions on topics later on. If someone sais in the beginning of a meeting that (s)he is in a bad mood/tired/… it will be easier for others to understand how the person is reacting in discussions and conversations. E.g. maybe the person does not dislike an idea as much as it seems, but it just sounds like it as (s)he is talking wih a voice more annoyed than usually cause (s)he has pain (or …). If necessary it can also be a good chance to find somebody good-mooded to do the moderation.

It is important that people trust each other enough to be honest about how they feel.If the group does not know each other well the emo flashlight can be combined with the introduction round and people don’t have to say as much.

You have to experiment with this method carefully, because some people really cannot deal with it. Make sure people understand what the method is good for, which is: to understand how the general mood is and how to treat single persons while the meeting. If necessary tell them that it is not the right time to tell about all their pains, angers and depressions. Otherwise the rest of the meeting might be pretty weird.

If there is serious conflict potential, you will have to see if you are cancelling the rest of the agenda for solving this conflict (which you should only do if there is people who are good in mediating conflicts), or find another time and place to talk about this and just go to your meeting as usual.

B.1.3. positioning game

A really good method to deescalate and calm down discussions, to let people go through them in a patient and empathetic way and to make them more interesting. I had really good experience with this method, which works so well because you are making people move around: they always change their own position and perspective, while they are clearly visualising different opinions with their own bodies. Needs some preparation though.

Think about what questions could be important for your discussion, and create a list with different answers as extreme poles, like “I want to experiment with a lot of nice methods in our meetings” and “I hate moving around in rooms and want to have a simple talk”. Or, more realistic: “I think that GMO is good” and “I think that GMO is very bad”. Or: “I think we should buy the new car” and “I think we should not buy it”. Anything should work I think…

One side of the room is one pole, the other side the other pole. Let people position themselves in between the 2 poles. Then make each single one of them explain why they are standing where they are. You will see that really interesting, orderly discussions will arise, and that there won’t be a lot which will remain unsaid.

Go through this process with all your questions. You should not have a list longer than about 10 questions.
If the people are still concentrated then, they might also come up with own ideas.

B.1.4. writing discussion

Another deescalating method. Let people write their discussions instead of talking. You need big paper and as many markers or pens as people.
Could be in form of a big mindmap. Could also be two papers, one with minus, one with plus. Or a table with the different questions and plus/minus.
Depends a bit on what you want to discuss about.

B.1.5. “sun and clouds”

A method that takes some time, and that visualizes the process of going through challenges in a project. You need a lot of colourful paper and glue. One yellow big round one, many small stripes in yellow, some big grey “clouds”, and then another set of stripes in another colour, like red or orange. (of course the colours can differ, but just to show which ones have the same colours).

Write the project you want to do in the middle of the big circle, that you stick onto a big paper. Now everyone is writing all the things (s)he wants to realise with that project, or likes about the project, onto the stripes, which are then grouped around the circle like sunbeams.

Then dark clouds are gathering in the papersky: write everything that could make your ideas not work onto the grey paper and stick it onto the the sun.

When all the conflicts and problems that might occur have covered the sunbeams, you take stripes in another colour, and together you think about possible solutions: new sunbeams are breaking through the cloud cover.

Don’t forget to take photos of the different stages, so you can see all of the ideas, wishes, and challenges again even though they are covered by paper and glue now.

B.1.6. constructive feedback

In the end of a meeting, try to give each other feedback.
How did you like the meeting? What do you take from it? What could you do better next time? What did you like about the communication behaviour of others? What not? Try to be as constructive as possible and don’t forget the positive feedback!!! Constructive means, don’t just tell people what they did “wrong”, but try to find solutions how they could do it differently! It can make sence to know some about nonviolent communication to do this. It is especially important to give feedback to the moderators, and people who prepared methods, tools, agenda.

B.2. tools for dealing with emotions in groups in general

Besides from getting aware of suppressed feelings that influence your meeting culture, there are things you can do to improve group communication ouside of the meeting times.

B.2.1. nonviolent communication

Nonviolent communication is a way of getting aware of violent forms of communication that you use, and doing it differently. It is easy to understand, and easy to learn, but needs a lot of practise. But there already is another article about it.

B.2.2. mediation

If you are having serious group conflicts, think about getting an experienced mediator to help you solve the conflicts. Or at least someone neutral to moderate your meetings.

B.2.3. radical therapy

It can really take a bad turn to mess around with this methods without having adequate group mediation experience. But anyhow I find the method too interesting to keep quiet about it. I could not find any English descriptions for that method in the internet. It comes from Germany from the 70s movement and there are some communities which made really good experience with it.

The method is used for making people tell each other all those things which they would not speak about in day-to-day-life. It is not made for resolving problems, but just about articulating things that you supress and push aside in daily routine. You can ask the people for a clarifying talk laer on.

There is 3 “presents” you are giving to others: “spinneries”, “ill-wills” and “canoodles”. It is a bit hard to translate the espressions, because they are made-up words that don’t actually exist in German everyday language – self-explanatory, but actually non-existent. Which is on purpose, as you always connect the words with the method like that, and you can start to work with the words and the realted consciousness in day-to-day life also. The method works best if it is repeated regularly, loike once a month or so. You need moderation by an experienced mediator for using it!!!!

The method takes 2 hours and consists of 4 phases. In the first round you are telling people about the “spinneries” you have about them. Things that you think about others, and that you believe in, but that might not be true.

“I have a spinnery for Marc, hat he is really angry about Greg”. “I have a spinnery for Mary, that she doesn’t always tell me what she thinks about me”. There is 4 possible answers to spinneries: “It is true”, “It is not true”, “It is partly true” or “I don’t know if it is true and I will find out about it”. You can write the possible answers on a piece of paper and put it into the middle of your circle, so people are getting less confused.
The person who has received the spinnery may not answer directly to the person who gave the spinnery to her. (S)he has to wait for a bit to calm down.

After half an hour the second round starts. The second round is about “ill-wills”. You are angry about someone and you let him/her know it now. “I have an ill-will for ….”. The only answer that is allowed is “I have heard it”. Again you may not directly give back an ill-will to the one who just gave one to you. And there is one more rule in this round: don’t pile up ill-wills. Don’t give people the same ill-will they already got before. Once they have heard what someone did not like, it’s fine and others don’t have to repeat it.

Then there is a break. After you start half an hour of asking questions about things you did not understand. (The person who got a spinnery or ill-will can directly tell the moderator (s)he wants to ask a question later, and the moderator can write it down, so it wont be forgotten in this round). Don’t dicuss about right or wrong, this is only about lacks of understanding, like “what situation exactly did you mean when you said that …”

Now that everyone is getting really exhausted and tired it is time for something more tasty: the last half an hour is about “canoodles”, which can be piled up as much as you want! Get up and stand in a circle to do this. Possible answers are: “doesn’t taste” (which I never heard anybody say), or “tastes yummie”!