I am currently leading a group for men, focusing upon Relationship Issues and Challenges. I conduct this group using Communologue Principles, developed in conjunction with the Imago Peace Project, a component of Imago Relationships International. This group has been meeting continuously since 1998.
Communologue vs Traditional Groups
I think the art of Communologue is to optimally, and with the minimal intervention possible, ensure that a group refrains from "nastiness," while sharing anything and everything. I believe that Traditional groups tend toward the development of conflict, while Communologue groups tend toward development of Win-Win, peaceful solutions.
I see these as normal groupings of 2 or more people which maintain “peacefulness” by avoiding “forbidden topics” and thus maintaining a tone (delusion) of agreement. These groups manage this fragile safety by “disagreeably” suppressing the expression of disagreement, i.e. differing points of view. MasterTalk is the most common form of “topic control”, but a wide range of non-verbal signals figure in as well. The tone is one of threat. Over a period of time, I think a traditional group becomes more and more calm as members cooperate and participate in avoiding an increasingly large body of “forbidden topics.” But I see the calm as an illusion.
I’ve noticed that those who want to discuss “forbidden topics” tend to leave the grouping and form other groups. Topics forbidden in Group A, become permitted in Group B. Thus are formed groups who can verbally and physically conflict with each other as groups. Development of Win-Win solutions to common problems become rare as the only arena for sharing data is a conflictual one.
I see these as normal groupings of two or more people that maintain respectful communication about all topics. Called Dialogical when only two are present, the focus of a Communologue group is on the “how” of respectful communication, not the “what.” The first goal of these groups is to remove the tone of threat, and to replace it with an assiduous focus on safety for all members.
I’ve noticed these groups ensure both short term, and lasting, safety by making sure that no topic is forbidden and by encouraging the agreeable, full expression of disagreement. The dialogical skills, taught in Imago Therapy, of Mirroring (and Invitation), Validating (and PreValidating), and Empathy promote this sharing of differing points of view. Avoidance of MasterTalk prevents the group from slipping into conflict. Development of Win-Win solutions to group problems is facilitated by the open sharing of all data.
I've learned that to make all this happen quickly at least one skilled facilitator must be present to ensure communication habits of respect, the exclusion of unsafe habits, and to act as a catalyst for members of the group to learn dialogical skills.