How a Leaderless Support Group Works

(Some of these ideas come from A Circle of Men, by Bill Kauth, St. Martin's Press, $12.95)

Take responsibility for yourself. This is your group, and you are responsible for getting what you want. Be clear to yourself and others about your goals.

Take responsibility for absences. If you haven't let the group know you'll be absent, phone people individually to let them know. After you miss a meeting phone one or more men to find out what happened in your absence. (Avoid gossip, but pay attention to individuals and details.)

Be as truthful as you can about your own experience. Think of the group as a place where you can be as real to others as you are to yourself. Avoid interpreting others, giving advice, judging. Recognize behavior that makes other men defensive, and avoi d it.

Be aware of your feelings from moment to moment. Don't just talk about your feelings; let them color vividly what you say and how you say it. And be alert to feelings in the group. If things get gray or monochromatic there's a problem. If one person mo nopolizes time, recognize it and do something about it. Don't leave such group issues to the facilitator to manage alone.

Deal openly with conflicts. Talk directly and positively with the person who makes you uncomfortable. Report your own feelings, not your judgments. Respect the feelings of the person you're in conflict with, but don't be bland.

Respect confidentiality. Begin with the assumption that nothing relating to individual men should be told, even to wives, lovers, etc. Check out with others any modification to this assumption.

Consciously practice listening skills. Validate the other man's experience by letting your own feelings resonate. Use your imagination to bridge gaps and differences. Don't pretend: really care.

Think about the group between meetings. Give yourself homework: examine your goals in the group and translate goals into "stretches," self-imposed challenges that try out new behavior.

Share the leadership roles flexibly and responsibly. When someone else is the facilitator (see Facilitating a Leaderless Group below), be aware of leadership issues so that you can learn the skills. And help the facilitator in tactful ways so that the group can be "not leaderless, but leaderful".

When and if you leave the group, reserve the time to say good-bye in a way that is appropriate to the length of time you have been in the group. Don't think that it will be easier if you slip away.

"Celebrate authentic masculine power and potency." Celebrate also authentic masculine gentleness and caring. Be passionate. Be playful.