Meeting 3-5
Focus: When Agreements are Broken…

The basic structure of this meeting is the same as Meeting 1.1 - refer back for more information.

Some issues may have come up during check-in that the group may wish to spend more time on rather than moving straight into the 'focus'; or perhaps some issue is still to be dealt with from the previous week. When it is appropriate the leader moves the group into the main focus for this meeting.

5) The Big Bit in the middle - the leader announces the focus of the meeting

Focus: When Agreements are Broken…

"Unity and group process stands on this foundation stone - agreement. Not only do we work to make agreements, we work to keep agreements, and it would be naive to assume that agreements will never be broken, thus we must also work to enforce agreements."

"We as a group will support group process by making our agreements conscious, by writing them down, and thus committing to be responsible and to be held accountable for what we've agreed to. If we don't, then we are 'avoiding' a very important aspect of men's group work that may eventually lead to the group breaking up because - we haven't done the work of making a strong enough container, ie the road ahead can be a planned conscious route (to some extent), not the dark slippery precipice of our unconscious…".

"Think about it, if we can't agree, or even agree to agree, then moving in any direction as a group becomes impossible; we're ail doing our own thing, moving in our own direction as and when we please - this is a definition of 'separateness', not of group - sitting in the same room together may give the appearance of group, but it will quickly fall apart over one issue or another because there is no commitment to 'agreement'."


  1. What experiences have you had around agreements that were broken? eg with family/friends/colleagues/partners…
  2. How do you feel when someone has broken an agreement made with you?
  3. What impact has it had in your relationship? (in your experience…)
  4. Reflect on an instance when you broke an agreement. What were the circumstances? What motivated you? How did you justify it? How did they feel? How did they respond? Were there lasting effects?
  5. What broken agreement has had the biggest impact on your life?

Focus: Broken Agreements

Which of our agreements require a response from the group if they're broken? What kinds of responses are available? eg acknowledging action of an agreement being broken (what was said/done) working to discover issue or intent behind/motivation for the action what response is appropriate? Under what circumstances would a man be excluded from group? How?

Notes for Meeting 3-5

One of the hardest things a group will take on will be the attempt to recover from broken agreements. What will determine a groups success in this task will be its ability to:

  1. Name and achieve consensus on what's going on - (paradoxical - can we agree that an agreement has been broken! - in the face of sometimes strong resistance/avoidance from the man who has broken the agreement)

    Sometimes the group as a whole may go into denial and refuse to 'see' what's going on - and be afraid/unwilling to tackle it.
    (See Meeting - Conflict Resolution).

    [The psychology behind this is that of being unwilling to acknowledge a violation has occurred (still in 'shock'?) - unwilling to admit our own or another man's 'woundedness', to ourselves].
  2. Review and re-read actual agreements made (did you write them down?) Our ability to deny, or justify avoidance, is almost unlimited, the only recourse may be what you actually wrote down.
    (Even then each man may have his own interpretation… good luck!)
  3. Establish and impose meaningful responses to 'violations' that effect an amends to any man who has been violated.
  4. Satisfactorily deal with the issue behind the 'violation'.
  5. Effect the re-commitment, and intent of commitment, towards group agreements.

Why and How do agreements get broken?

It would be naive to assume that our motivations are always going to be fair and reasonable, whether in a group or elsewhere. This will become apparent when we engage in the agreement making process, each of us wants to ensure that our interests are taken care of. Some men may even attempt to destroy group process (and group) if they don't get their own way, this has happened and will happen again.

Some men may have a cavalier attitude towards agreements, and make and break them as they choose -seemingly with little conscience; others may have a particular issue and may actually be setting up a conflict/confrontation; others may be testing the groups boundaries, seeing what they can get away with, seeing if the agreements are important enough (for you) to defend; maybe he can't trust himself if the other men in the group aren't willing to make the container strong (for him) by defending/enforcing the agreements - ie he's pushing you because he wants you to push back! This is men's work too…

Working to support agreements and group process - Responses and Sanctions

See 1 to 5 above - this extends item 3: Meaningful Responses
If a violation has occurred ask for an amends… eg an apology -

  1. if given, and sincere, it says that man accepts his responsibility and acknowledges the inappropriate action/statement and impact it has had
  2. if not given - that man may not accept the fact of a violation or be unwilling to be accountable - this has serious implications for group process - it may stop meaningful progress - our ability to work together hinges on our willingness to be accountable to each other. A choice must be made by the group, to either:-
    LET THIS MAN'S WILFUL SELFISH ACTIONS DESTROY GROUP PROCESS, AND MAYBE THE GROUP, or IMPOSE SANCTIONS ON HIM which may mean EXCLUDING HIM FROM THE GROUP, either temporarily, until he's had a chance to consider under what basis he will ask to return ie does he choose to be accountable? -does he choose to work towards and be guided by agreements? - or HE MAY BE PERMANENTLY EXCLUDED if unable/unwilling to comply with accepted group standards.
  3. Renew commitment to 'Mission'/group process/agreements, recognizing that group membership is an earned privilege, not a right; and start to build trust again.