Typical Responses

I have used this approach in various groups to modify other norms I have inadvertently shaped, e.g., too little attention to member lateness, members eating food during a session, so the responses to this situation above are typical in groups.

One member said, "Wow, Dr. Shay. You never say that much at one time." Another member followed, "I like it when you're the first to make a comment when someone is crying. I don't really know what to say." A third said, "I actually noticed how we always get quiet, but that was fine with me." And a fourth added, "I guess you think we can really do this." After a silence, I said, "I do think you can. And I think the group as a whole can find its own voice when someone is distressed, although it may feel awkward at first. If there are more reactions or feelings now, I'm glad to hear them, or even at a later point in the group when we see how it goes." A fifth group member then took the floor and spoke about how no one in his family even seemed to notice when he was upset, leading to a productive exploration for this member and for the group as well as they reacted to his story.

In subsequent group meetings—not in this one—group members did indeed respond to distraught group members, often after an initial silence, recognizing I trusted them to do so.

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