Methodology

The use of a sociometric technique can evoke a mixture of excitement and some anxiety in the group. The strategy makes the more or less covert relationships, desires for connection and the disconnections in the group visible. This exerts pressure on each member to make clear statements about his or her position(s) in the group, and to listen attentively to the statements of the others. It challenges the members to accept both connections and rejections. It is important for the group leader to have a clear set of boundaries, especially regarding desires to rescue or gloss over difficult moments in the process. It is important that the group leader remind the group that these are fluid choices influenced by many factors in the moment in the group, and that these positions can help the members to reflect on their habitual and habituated positions in their personal lives, their family of origin, current intimate and social relationships, and at work.

Instructions for the Task

Step I: Preparing the Group

Explain to the group that you will help the group figure out "each member's relationship to the others in the group," Each member will create a personal sociogram (Blatner & Blatner, 1988; Hale, 1985) of the group. This is a diagram of the relationships within the group as each member experiences them personally. It is important that they be as honest as possible.

Step 2: Directions for Phase One

Pass out the pencils and smaller papers. Tell the group members that the edges of the paper are the boundaries of the group, and that they should write their name somewhere inside that boundary where they feel themselves to be in the group as a whole. They should then write the names of each of the other group members, including the leader, placing each name in a position on the paper in relationship to the other group members including the member whose sociogram it is.

Finally, similar to creating a genogram, they should draw a double line toward those with whom they feel very connected, a dotted line to those from whom they feel distance or disconnection, and a jagged line to those with whom they feel conflict or uneasiness. These lines should end with a directional arrow toward the other. Explain that this must be done as honestly as possible in order to get the most information from the experience.

They should create similar lines from the names of the other toward themselves with a directional arrow at the end. Explain that some of these lines may feel one-directional to them. That is, they may feel warmly toward another group member but experience less warmness or even conflict/rom that member. Some of their lines may end with a directional arrow both toward the other and from the other. These are the natural valences, or lines of energy within the group as each member perceives them.

Step 3: Directions for the Phase Two

When all group members are finished with their personal sonograms, put the larger piece of paper in the center of the room. Invite them to place their own names on the paper where they experience themselves to be in the group. They should use their personal color (crayon or marker) for this part of the task.

Next the group leader asks each member to draw a line, using his or her color, toward the group member(s) they feel a sense of closeness to, then jagged or broken lines toward the group member(s) toward whom they feel conflict or disconnection. At this point, the group composite sociogram will become a colorful representation of the group's perception of itself.

Phase Two usually increases the anxiety in the group. This is when members declare themselves very visibly, and there may not be congruence between what they expected and what is actually depicted on the larger group-constructed sociogram.

Step 4: Processing the Work

Where there are lines of closeness, conflict, or disconnection on the group composite, the leader should invite the members to describe their positions relative to the other, and assist them to encounter one another and clarify meaning and relationship. It will be tempting to "solve" the attractions and avoidances or conflicts, however, it is very important simply to let them be seen and stated. There may be a sense of relief or affirmation in knowing clearly where one stands relative to the others.

As in a family genogram, the leader may want to help the participants notice and articulate dynamics such as triangulated relationships, dyadic relationships, and isolates in the group. These dynamic tensions can be viewed as replicating to some degree the family-of-origin dynamics.

It is rare that a group will have a "perfect" sociogram; i.e., one in which all the connections and disconnections have been accurately depicted by every group member. The complexity of the group sociogram and the reactions of the group members to it will be good "grist for the mill" for some time to come.

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