The Paradox of a Meaningful Update – Dorianne Weil “DrD”

As is stated in all the manuals the update is about listening and is usually timed and uninterrupted.  The forum is asked to spend a short while preparing their update, best / worst business, family, personal looking forward to and reading business, family, personal as per the guidelines on the update form.  This format has proved invaluable in serving two essential purposes.

1.  To literally “check-in” so by the time the update is complete everyone is fully present in the moment.
2.  To illicit meaningful content for presentations.

However, there are times when too much preparation and focus,as opposed to spontaneity, may have the opposite effect.  It is possible “to prepare out” or censure the content of the update if the issue is particularly difficult
to talk about, or the member is feeling overly vulnerable or threatened in some way.  Obviously, this applies more to developing forums and less to forums who are in prime.

It is important to “listen between the lines”.  Listen.  Listen with the utmost attention to the words, to the body language, to the silences and pauses.  Often something is said quickly and glossed over.  A gesture or a pause might give a clue to the enormity of an at first seemingly glib comment or irrelevant issue.  At this point, I believe it is important in fact, to interrupt with an active listening statement that would help illicit, or at least explore and expand the issue briefly i.e. “I know how important your relationship with your father is to you, so this argument must be particularly difficult” or “you said you have been to the doctor – what was the outcome?” etc.

NB.  You would only do this if you had a strong sense that there was more than was overtly stated and that the issue would be missed as a potential important presentation.

Of course, the problem is that you are also opening up the possibility of the update over running or even becoming a presentation which is why it is easier to simply never interrupt.  However, and this is the paradox of the successful update, at the point where the member begins to talk and expand on the topic you recognise that this is indeed meaningful and important and it is precisely now that the member needs to be stopped.  How do you do this?  Statements like, “it sounds like you need some time for this, don’t you think so (address this to the group as well as the member), let’s come back to it”

Many members and moderators are concerned about losing the moment, most especially if the member who is speaking becomes emotional.  Please be assured that the issue is uppermost and surface for the member and will readily be accessed again once the update is complete and you have created the time and space in a supportive climate.

There are very few exceptions in handling this in this manner.  One might be if the member has just discovered a severe or terminal illness,  a sudden and tragic loss etc.  In these circumstances, it would be impossible to focus on subsequent updates anyway and you would obtain immediate “buy in” from the group to carry on.  For almost all other issues, even when the person is tearful, complete the update first.  You never know what other people might be sitting with and they may not reveal even when asked.

Sometimes the member will dismiss the issue or resist a presentation.  This is where there is a fine line between invitation and encouragement and pressure and coercion.  If you believe the resistance is because of vulnerability, once again, active listening comments like “this must be incredibly hard for you to talk about” etc. might serve to draw the person in. The use of the group is invaluable provided you as the moderator make sure that the comments are invitational and not pressurising.

In sum, the paradox is getting the member during the update to almost begin an important presentation that might have been missed and then stopping him in order to afford him the appropriate space and time to do so.