[Post written by TomTod’s Chief Ideation Officer, Abby Shaub].
I hate groups.
Or at least I used to. If you know me, my past disdain of working with others was odd. After all, I was a Communication major in college. It should be natural for me to encourage discussion and cooperate with anyone, right?
The truth is I disliked working in groups because I couldn’t control everything. It seemed like I was always matched with people who were social loafers, just trying to get by. Instead of accepting we had different work styles and valuing the perceived “social loafers,” I shrugged it off and tried to do everything myself.
As my college career progressed, my perspective changed. I was a resident assistant my junior year on a staff with unique personalities. Although we each had different work styles, I witnessed that in the midst of our differences, we meshed really well together. Aha! Healthy groups COULD exist! This new mindset trickled into my academic life, as I tried to value each group member.
This semester, I am auditing the class Initiative Games at my alma mater, Malone University. The class teaches group games and trust activities as a way to unify groups. Last week we discussed the Full Value Contract, a social agreement to value each person and the group as a whole. It is comprised of 3 commitments: (From the book Islands of Healing: A Guide to Adventure Based Counseling).
1.) “Agreement to work together as a group and to work toward individual and group goals”
2.) “Agreement to adhere to certain safety and group behavior guidelines.”
3.) “Agreement to give and receive feedback, both positive and negative, and to work toward changing behavior when it is appropriate.”
When the 3 commitments are upheld, group members are supported. The contract doesn’t prevent group conflict. Instead, when problems arise, group members handle them with integrity, remembering that each member has value. It also means that sometimes we have to call each other out. Giving and receiving feedback isn’t easy, but it allows growth to occur.
I now like groups. The feeling of accomplishing a goal with a handful of others is exhilarating. I am eager to take what I’ve learned from Initative Games and share it with our TomTod students. I want them to experience the joy of cooperating with their peers, whether in an initiative game or when presenting a group idea.
Along the way, I will have a heightened awareness for the students who are hesitant to fully commit to a group. Hey, I’ll tell them, I was there too. It’s a scary feeling to commit to others and let go of control. But believe me, it’s worth it.