Focus: Working Rules
When a group first gets started, it hasn't yet had time to define itself, or how it wants things to run, so it needs a set of working rules to use in the meantime. This helps the men present to know what the 'boundaries' are, what's expected, and it also helps to define a safe space. It will be more helpful to take a closer look at the rules at a later date when the group is more established and comfortable with defining its own boundaries. The Working Rules as presented below are drawn from experience and have been used successfully before by men's groups.
Working Rules and Guidelines
- No violence or threats of violence - this requires immediate exclusion from the group.
- Confidentiality - anything heard or witnessed inside the group is not to be repeated outside.
- No drug use before/during group (except for eg tea, coffee).
- Take full responsibility for yourself ie- Speak your truth - Own your words/acts/feelings.
- Call and tell someone if you can't make a meeting or are going to be late, even at the last minute.
- Please let someone know if you won't be coming back to group - this is helpful and considerate.
- Membership in the group is based on a man's commitment to recognise the groups authority in setting its rules, by whatever method it deems appropriate, (eg majority decision, consensus).
- Once the group is established - a new man (men) may only be invited with the group's ok.
Notes for Working Rules
- ie each man commits to never threatening or using violence against anyone in the group. (See Statement on Non-violence)
Anyone who uses violence/threats is seriously missing the point of what the group is about and should be immediately required to leave. Anyone who has been on the receiving end of this has been violated and it is intolerable for them to have to sit through the aftermath of this action in the presence of the perpetrator.
If the violator is not excluded, the victims only other recourse is to leave the meeting himself. This is an unhealthy situation that rewards the violator and punishes the victim and should not be allowed.
The violator may be allowed back at a later date if
- he re-commits to non-violence, understands that this is a fundamental basis for group process
- he is able to make an amends/apology to the victim with good intent
- the victim is able to accept the apology/intent and feels ok with allowing that man to return Philosophically - we support all our feelings and right to have them, but we also support appropriate methods of expressing them in a group context ie non-violent and non-abusive.
- See Meeting Confidentiality.
- Anyone in a drug induced state can be very disruptive of normal group process.
- The more self-responsibility each man can recognise and own, the greater clarity our group process will have - in fact many contentious group issues are often around who 'owns' what and who is trying to avoid responsibility…
As we accept self-responsibility there is less and less judging/blaming and projecting that will be going on - the less we become victims of 'circumstance' (or someone else's action) and the more we start to own and create our reality the way we want it to be.
Taking full responsibility includes:
- it's up to you to respect the rules, any mission statement etc ie the intent of this group
- you must take responsibility for what you say/do, how you feel OWN YOUR STUFF (ie no-one else makes you say or do anything - its not their 'fault')
- speak your truth
- use 'I' statements and speak to your experience rather than generalisations re. men
- it's ok to ask for what you want - in a group context there are competing demands, so we may not always get what we want when we want it
- it's ok to pass on any exercise
- it's not someone else's job to fix me or answer my question or respond to me, I may ask, and they may respond, if they choose to - the rest is all my issue, not theirs also. They may not want my feedback right now - can I respect their choice?
- likewise its not my job to fix/advise/blame/judge/lay a trip on anyone else
- In the early days you may discover/decide/realise that this group, what it offers, is not for you -it is ok to leave- there is no blame or failure attached to that choice. You may have a sense of what it is you're looking for, or what's missing for you - if you are able to share that with group it will help them to evaluate and consider what's working for them. (See Meeting - Leaving the Group)
- The group collectively has the right to establish how it will work . If a man disagrees with a rule then he should follow any procedure the group has established to discuss/review/change that rule. In other words he should not just arbitrarily break that rule - this is serious breach of trust and group rights and potentially very damaging to the group. The group reserves the right to exclude any man who chooses not to follow established group procedures/rules.
- Unexpected guests can be very disruptive to normal group process, and in extreme cases may actually be set-up to do just that, by a man wishing to avoid an issue by creating a new one. In these circumstances uninvited guests or men wishing to join may simply and courteously be requested to leave - explaining that the group has a procedure to follow regarding inviting guests or new members.