Facilitating change: The power of sharing our experience

sharing our experience

Sharing our experience of others directly with them can be incredibly powerful. Let me tell you a story…

Not long ago, I was working at a multi-day workshop with a 6-person group that included someone I’ll call D. D self-described themself as mentally ill, bipolar, and with psychological issues. They spoke slowly, and described themself as not emotionally available, and often confused about what they said.

D also shared that they:

  • Felt isolated and wanted to get better at connecting with people;
  • Believed that other people couldn’t easily understand them and didn’t like them; and
  • Had a hard time deciding whether to attend the workshop.

D was clearly feeling fragile. Group work can be confrontational at times. So I privately hoped that the other group members would be supportive.

What happened?

It quickly became apparent that D was intelligent, perceptive, sensitive, thoughtful, and communicated clearly.

So from time to time during the group sessions I’d tell D my experience of them. When appropriate, I’d say something like “By the way, you told us earlier that you think people find you hard to understand. I want you to know that I think you communicate really well, and I’ve had no problem understanding you.”

I didn’t have to worry about the rest of the group. They had a similar experience of D, and regularly reinforced this and similar sentiments.

As the workshop continued, D visibly relaxed. We were impressed by how D had handled and was dealing with the many difficulties in their life. Our group liked D, and told them so several times.

An unexpected conclusion

At the end of the workshop, participants had the opportunity to stand up in front of everyone (about 80 people) and share what they’d learned. Given what I knew of D, I didn’t expect them to contribute. So I was totally surprised when D got up and walked to the front of the room. Slowly, D said:

“I’m really nervous.

I learned that there are people in this world who like me, who understand me, and who I can have an emotionally intimate relationship with.”

She stopped and stood there, looking at us all.

I was weepy and the applause was loud and sustained.

Yes, sharing our experience of others directly with them can be incredibly powerful.

Do you have examples of the power of sharing your experience of others with them? Please tell us in the comments!