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What: Below are two processes for dealing with in-session conflict

When to use
: When anyone is activated (triggered) -- and talking about it isn't working or doesn't seem like a doable strategy at the moment.  If a pause isn't working the group can opt to do Separate Empathy Circles (see below).

Who:Anyone can call a pause either when they are activated, or they see someone else that appears to be activated.

Intention: to bring presence, calm and connection back to the group 

Calling a Pause

Note: below I use refer to "activated person" and "person who is stimulus",
but sometimes both people could be activated or the stimulus.
I also have adapted this for conflict in groups, but the process can be adapted for dyads.

  1. The one that called a pause names two sensations
  2. The other group members take turns naming two sensations each
  3. Take a few rounds taking turns naming two body sensations
  4. When everyone is ready to move on to the next stage, take turns naming the needs that are most alive.  Be sure to say the needs word without attaching it to the person.  (Needs sheets are available if helpful)
  5. When all the needs have been named, reflect back each other's needs.  Eric suggests starting with "Can I tell you what I'm hearing from you?".  Anyone can start. 
  6. If the person who is activated (Person A) can see how she might appreciate the other person who was the stimulus for intense emotions (Person S), Person A can say something like "I appreciate your efforts to support me and I'd like to tell you how I'd like to be supported.  Are you open to hearing that from me?"  If there is no appreciation that she can find in what the other person's intention is, then she can say something like "There's something that's coming up for me right now, and I'd like to share that.  Are you open to hearing it?"
  7. If the answer is yes, then Person A shares how she would like to be supported. Person S then reflects back what he's heard until Person A is heard and understood.  If the answer is no, then stay with each person connecting to their own needs and sensations.  Then revisit #5 onwards.
  8. Once the Person A has been heard and understood, Person S takes a turn being heard and understood by the Person A.
  9. Move forward once there is agreement on how to move forward.  If there isn't agreement on how to move forward, continue hearing each other's needs.  If the trigger is such that both of you are needing more empathy than the other can give, then one option is to ask the group if they are okay with creating separate empathy circles (see below).  And if the answer is yes, you can try it out.

Separate Empathy Circles

If there are two conflicting people in a group, divide the group in half (you can adapt this for more numbers of conflicting people in a group).  Then either person goes to another room and half the group follows.  The other half of the group stays in the current room with the other person.  Each empathy circle provides empathy to the person experiencing the conflict.  

Options for Empathy Circles:
  • Trying coherence circle approach, checking in on body sensations after each empathy guess
  • Ending with a round of "needs met" from group members

Credit: Most of this is adapted from Eric Bowers "Calling a Pause with a Partner" handout.  
Separate Empathy Circles was an idea I got from Mika Maniwa.

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