1) Note Taking
At ShareWell, we understand the importance of fostering a welcoming and supportive atmosphere within our peer support sessions. Often, our groups accommodate up to 16 participants. In such a sizable gathering, it can be challenging to recall everyone’s contributions and stories. This is where note-taking becomes invaluable.
Taking notes, including using your own shorthand or abbreviations, can significantly aid in retaining essential details from each participant’s narrative. Imagine a scenario where two individuals courageously share deeply emotional experiences with the group. Later on, during discussions or follow-ups, mixing up their stories can inadvertently happen, leading to peers feeling unseen, invalidated, or unheard.
At ShareWell, our overarching goal is quite the opposite. We aim for every participant to feel seen, heard, and validated, regardless of the challenges they’re facing. Considering that most of us type much more quickly than we write by hand, digital note-taking often proves to be the most efficient and comfortable method for ensuring that each participant’s journey is respected and acknowledged.
So, while we encourage you to choose the approach that makes you feel most at ease, embracing digital note-taking can be a powerful tool in creating an inclusive and empathetic peer support space. See the expanded blog on note-taking.
2) Being Compassionate
One of the cornerstones here at ShareWell is compassion and empathy (okay, that’s two cornerstones…who’s counting)! We are a platform for peers, led by peers and created by peers. Noone is acting in a professional capacity – only out of a capacity of having lived through the experience to which we’re in connection with. Many individuals turn to ShareWell to explore emotions and topics they might not comfortably discuss in their everyday encounters – our emotions.
Sadly, in the broader world, discussions about emotions often receive insufficient attention, and people may struggle to respond appropriately when someone opens up about their feelings. Regrettably, in some cases, individuals are subjected to ridicule for expressing their emotions, a painful experience that can lead to emotional trauma. Given this backdrop, it’s crucial for all of us to be exceptionally mindful of our interactions and conversations with fellow peers. While sharing deep and intimate emotions may be new territory for some, it underscores the importance of considering our words and actions carefully.
It’s worth noting that the majority of communication is nonverbal, as emphasized by Psychology Today. This breakdown indicates that 55% of communication relies on body language, 38% on tone of voice, and just 7% on the actual words spoken. This insight highlights the significance of not only what we say but also how we convey it, especially in our peer support environment characterized by empathy and understanding. See the expanded blog on compassionate hosting.
3) Giving room for silence
Sometimes, silence is the most precious thing we can give to another person when we’re deeply engrossed in a conversation. It allows the other to deeply consider and process either the prompt given (if it is a journaling exercise that the group is working on), or to reflect on what another was saying. Perhaps this would be a great time for self-reflection and growth. Let’s reframe the connotation of “silence is awkward” into “silence is reflective”. Oftentimes, the quietest people in the room (whether proverbial or literal) are some of the deepest thinkers, and sometimes, they might need time to think before giving their contribution. Equally, the ones who are the first to speak might also need that time to really reflect over what was just said. Allow for the silence. It brings on a sense of mindful reflections that often give way to deeper, more meaningful conversations to follow. See our expanded blog on giving room for silence. See the expanded blog on giving room for silence.
4) Having questions prepared
Sessions are able to be scheduled for 30, 60, or 90 minutes. Sometimes, we might run out of things to say, and it would appear that nobody else has anything else to contribute either. In these times, it is handy to have a list of questions prepared and ready to be able to ask the group as a whole in order to continue the conversation. See the expanded blog with sample session questions.
5) Allow room for spontaneity
As briefly touched upon in the previous tip, allow for spontaneity! The most interesting, educational, and fascinating stories and experiences come out of allowing room for spontaneity. While some sessions might require more of an agenda, and others are more of a “let’s-get-together-and-chat” type of a session, regardless of scenario, allowing room for spontaneity will likely never befall you. As in life, some of the best things happen out of the scenarios that we never expected and never planned for. See the expanded blog on allowing for spontaneity. See the expanded blog on allowing room for spontaneity.
We trust that these tips will prove beneficial as you embark on your hosting journey! It’s important to bear in mind that there’s no such thing as a flawless session or flawless host. We’re all on this learning and growth path together. Grant yourself the gift of grace as you hone in on your unique hosting style.