Through one fantastic article — How I Learned to Stop giving Advice — I found another very interesting article that detailed something called the “Gestalt Language Protocol” (orig). Unfortunately, the original article is no longer online, but I did find a cached version in Google. I’m posting it below for the benefit of others:
Gestalt Protocol comes from Gestalt psychology. Practicing this protocol is a discipline that has far-reaching effects on the quality, operation and value derived from a Forum group. The seven points of the protocol are difficult to absorb and practice for new Forum groups. They are however a key component in creating a safe environment where members will feel comfortable sharing openly. Because this protocol can be difficult, we recommend that new groups focus on numbers 1, 2 and 5 in that order of priority.
- Speak from your own experience rather than give advice.
- Use “I” statements not “one” or “you,” but “I.”
- Speak in specifics not generalities. If I were to say, “all men are workaholics” that would be a generality. Instead if I were to say, “my dad and my partner are workaholics” that would be specific.
- Ask “How” not “Why” to prevent defensiveness. If I were to say “Why didn’t you fire your bookkeeper when you found out he was steeling from you?” that maybe attacking. Instead if I were to say, “How did you come to the decision as to whether or not you should fire your bookkeeper.”
- Make a statement to declare your position before you ask a question.
- Say, “I feel” to mean real feelings like sad, mad or glad, rather that saying “I feel you are.” Forum is a uniquely personal experience where emotions are as important to the process as the facts. By asking someone how do you feel, we attempt to evoke the emotions in the person that are perpetuated by the situation. Using feel in the right context will allow for deeper presentations.
- Replace “I don’t know” with “I won’t decide” or “I don’t want to say.”
That seems like a pretty good primer. I also found some more material on the matter here (pdf).
The Gestalt Language Protocol comes from Gestalt psychology. Practicing this protocol affects the quality, operation and value of a roundtable. While the protocol is often difficult to practice for new roundtables, it helps create a safe environment for members to share openly.
Here are some components of this protocol:
1. Speak from experience rather than give advice. By sharing experiences, we end up with data that promotes better decisionmaking. Sharing experience also allows for bonding and cohesion building in a group.
· Use the past tense.
· Say, “Here’s what worked for me…,” which is far better than making “should
statements” such as “Here’s what you should do…” or starting comments with “I would.”
· Empathize. Strive to understand the situation from the presenter’s point of view.
Remember that no one else has to live with the consequences, and what works for one person will not necessarily work for another.
2. Ask questions to lower others’ defenses. Try to explain the purpose of your question
before asking it. Don’t treat the presenter like a defendant.
3. Share experiences that have both positive and negative outcomes. This boosts your credibility and shows you’re able to learn from your mistakes as well as your
4. Listen well. Write your thoughts and questions as they arise. This frees up your mind
to listen until it’s your turn to speak.
5. Paraphrase before you respond. Confirm what you think you heard before you reply. This ensures that you respond to what was said, not what you think was said.
6. Maintain eye contact as you listen to a speaker.