Support

In this session, participants learn how to attend to the needs of others and how to give appropriate types of support. A key assumption underlying this exercise is that in order to receive support one must be a provider of support.

A good start-up exercise is to have each member discuss an experience of being supportive to persons within and outside their networks. The discussion should be directed at discussing how members feel when they give support. For example, members might report feeling joy or satisfaction that they are building a relationship, fulfilling a spiritual mission, and so on. This exercise ties into the one in the previous session whereby members discussed how they felt when they received support. Members should also be directed to discuss when they are likely to give support and the types of support they are good at giving. For example, if a member is good with children, he or she may want to offer child-care support. A person who knows the public transportation system in the city well may want to be a guide for a person who is less adept with the public transportation system.

A discussion of volunteering may also be relevant during this session.

Members can discuss causes they endorse and be encouraged to volunteer for such causes if they have time. In addition to the positive feeling volunteering brings, volunteer work may lead to the development of new skills that can be transferred to the job market.

The group can engage in a discussion of how being an effective provider of support means being aware of the needs of the individual and being able to match the needs with the appropriate type or provider of support. If one cannot provide what is needed, referring the person to another resource can be a form of support. A second exercise provided members with the opportunity to provide emotional support by role playing how to be an effective (active) listener. The facilitator can list on the board active listening behaviors. These include body posture oriented toward speaker, eye contact with speaker, and acknowledging the speaker's comments. The active listener acknowledges that he or she understands what is being said by restating essential points and confirms that the person is finished talking by asking if he or she has more to say. Members can practice active listening in a supportive relationship through role play. Two group members can practice speaking and active listening in front of the group. The group provides feedback regarding whether or not the listener has been responsive to the speaker through his or her body language and verbal behaviors.

Another exercise can be directed at providing informational support through job interview practice for groups in which employment is desired. Members can role play job interview scenarios, with members switching the interviewer and interviewee roles. Group members can provide feedback on role players' verbal and nonverbal behaviors. A homework assignment may be to have members identify an agency or organization or persons they would like to do volunteer work with.

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