The Magic of Groups – Watch out Harvard!

Day by day we go about our lives: meeting this person for coffee, spending time with another while waiting in line, talking to loved ones. Normally the conversations we have with others are cordial and comforting, and tend to rest upon the surface of life. Rarely do we conversationally venture into territory of the unknown or the uncomfortable.

Which is why I love my job. I help people unleash conversations that live inside them and that they have been waiting to have but might not have known it. This can be alone – journaling for example, one-on-one – as in a coaching relationship, or in a group. Though magic happens alone and one-on-one, I am usually more amazed at what can be created in a group.

There is something that happens when a solid, safe field is created on which people can explore with themselves and with each other the deeper intricacies of conversations they might not have if not prompted to do so.

For example, the other day I led a workshop on difficult conversations. During this workshop I facilitated the participants talking with each other about difficult conversations they have had, are having or need to have. And because of the nature of their work, these participant’s very life and livelihood depends on successful difficult conversations.

Every now and again we all have a need/reason to enter into a difficult conversation. And when we do we often feel alone, as if we are the only one that ever has challenges with difficult conversations. Yet all around us are people (everyone by the way), who have their own challenges, and let it be said – successes, in difficult conversations. If we can tap into this wisdom, we can learn incredible things.

One incredibly magical thing happened the other day at this course I taught up in Canada. About 24 highly trained mountain professionals were in the room. They were asked to find a partner and with this partner discuss a difficult conversation. They had a time limit, a method of moving through the conversation together, and a list of questions to prompt each other if the conversation stalled or got stuck at a surface level. Funny thing, the conversations never died. Everyone had a lot to say, go figure.

After the groups of two completed, they condensed into groups of four. Here they shared the headlines of each other’s stories and set to work to discover common themes among them. Then they consolidated yet again into three groups of eight, shared headlines and garnered themes.

Here is where it gets amazing. There is this book called Difficult Conversations by Stone, Patton and Heen, well-funded Harvard research scientists. In their book, derived from their extensive research, they discovered the most important things to pay attention to and look out for in a difficult conversations. There are six main themes to consider.

Well, the mountain professionals in Canada in 40 minutes came up with the same list. Of course the wording was different, but the themes they came up with were the same as this well-researched book.

You may wonder, how did they do that? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s not rocket science, its relationship. And if you did the same practice at your next dinner party, you might find your friends a heck of a lot smarter than you thought they were before!

Interpersonal communication is something we all have in common. And magic happens when we realize this, take opportunities to be in conversation when we feel stuck and are courageous enough to take risks into the unknown or the uncomfortable.

As my partner Neil always says, in order to grow, you have to get really comfortable with interpersonal discomfort. And trust me, we can take you there! If you want to learn more or have a group you want to unleash, invite perspective. You never know what could happen. It will probably be magical.




Real, or more like REAL.

I recently returned from a five day retreat into my deep soul in the Canyons of the Ancients in southwestern Colorado. This is actually the only section of Colorado that I have ever been. Once to camp at McPhee Reservoir near Dolores on my way to Mesa Verde in the mid 90’s and then this time to Cortez, even closer to Mesa Verde.

This retreat is the first in a series of four sessions that aid in the descent into the soul to learn what the soul’s purpose is for this earth walk and create a delivery system for bringing this gem to the world.

Now I don’t feel that far off from my soul’s purpose, in fact it seems so close and so entwined with who I am that I often cannot see it. Its voice is often so soft and sweet it is as if I am listening to a dream. Which is why I wanted to make this descent; to separate the self I have become from the self I have always been, in order to see purely for the first time my gift to the world, without all the baggage, shoulds or can’ts.

While on retreat, we held a ceremony to let go of our attachment to the old self and open up to dropping into our deep soul. This releasing attachment is something I have been actively trying to do for years. It is also advice I have gotten from therapists, friends and my partner, but didn’t want to listen: What are you going to stop doing Tracy? Good question.

Releasing attachment, though so desperately wanted is also the thing I dread. When I release attachment to the way I have been in the world, it means letting go of all of the ways in which I have gotten my basic human needs for safety, belonging and dignity met. They may not be the healthiest of ways but they sure are dang comforting!

It means releasing attachment to relying on my habit patterns of behavior. Like my anxiousness when getting things done or getting the kids to school or bed. Or my automatic response to big emotions from the kids. It means opening up to not having a plan, for anything, and being in the unfolding mystery, which for me is like being up shit creek without a paddle.

At the retreat, our guide also told us to limit our contact with the busy world of people and things. To disengage from life a bit or a lot if you could in order to facilitate the dropping into the deep soul. While I love alone time, I have a busy family life that I love, a job that I love and friends that I love to hang out with.

I stood in awe of the task: how to drop into my deep soul in the midst of a full life? Well, it means letting go of shoulds – you should go to that event, you should call that friend, you should be more productive – and opening up to LETTING PEOPLE DOWN. Yikes!

Simply, this realization brought into view my desire to belong, my deep desire to have a place. And in order to do that, I have often set aside my deep soul to be in contact with other people. And to be in the conversations that happen when people get together and talk about everything other than their deepest longing.

So, when a friend asked me what I thought about the retreat, as first I didn’t know how to answer. They offered me adjectives like profound and inspiring. But none of those fit exactly, yet it was those words and more – difficult, weird, complicated, hard, beautiful, needed, and many other adjectives. Then another friend asked, I again hesitated to answer, but then as it percolated I came to word that describes the retreat best: REAL.

To me this means finally aligning with my soul’s gifts. Saying “no” to things that do not fill me. Making time for things that do. Acting in the world the way I want to act, not the way I have practiced for years. It means becoming real like the Velveteen Rabbit. To fully loving myself enough to not settle for good enough in the way of my soul’s dream. It means putting into action what I have been prepping for in the last 20 years.

Not sure if you can feel that, but it feels heavy for me. And at the same time light and welcoming. As if I am opening up to so much space and possibility, just by letting my soul shine.

So if you are interested in talking about your soul’s deepest longing, invite perspective. I love this journey with all its challenges, mystery and grief. I want to help you love the journey too, despite the hardships, so the world can see your soul shine too!