just finished another group training, this time young volunteers from different EU and some non-EU countries doing their voluntary projects in Slovenia. We spent five days together, working from 9.30am till 7pm with only a few breaks in-between.
Being young nowadays isn’t easy. Making choices, deciding what to do with/in your life, deciding to dedicate some of your time to do volunteering work, isn’t easy. Then add that it is happening in a foreign country, away from home, loved ones, on a tight budget and without a clear picture of what’s ahead, and you come down to one word: unknown.
I’ve done quite some numbers of similar youth group trainings. And have been a participant in a few myself. As trainers, we’d often have high expectations, presuppositions about the participants as well as theories of who’s in the group and why do they behave the way they do.
For instance, there are always stereotypes about different nationalities. Then there are social stereotypes about young people being spoiled, unmotivated, waiting to be served, not proactive, etc., etc. With such assumptions it’s always clever to figure out who’s the group making those claims. It is almost never the group about which the assumption is about. Funny, isn’t it?
So it happens that people in the group do not follow instructions. Object. Or ask the same things that have just been explained the session earlier. They do not show up on time. They complain about things not being right, yet do not offer how to make them right. And so on. I’m sure you know what I mean.
What each group teaches (reminds) me is that I never want to be “right” again. Even when I might have an assumption, I’d never want to argue or not repeat the instructions again and again and again or be kind even when others aren’t or be patient when someone might not be. What I remember was the most important for me in another country, among people I didn’t know, language I wasn’t fluent in, etc., was not people who were smart about how things should be or would be right about what I should have done. It was people who were kind and there for me, especially when I was clumsy and made mistakes. Who were willing to help me out without me feeling that I should “know this” or that “I’m stupid”. This is probably what mothers are like towards their children. They’d never assume the child will not make it and they are not forcing them to “get it” faster or would not be fed up with them not showing immediate progress. It’s what a gardener might feel when planting the seeds. They need whole lot of water, warmth, sunshine and care, before they can bloom.
Groups are inspiring, but can also be stressful. Lots of people together, lots of persuasion, dominance, cooperation, competition, comparison, manipulation even. Lots of fighting about whose opinion matters more and who is right or wrong. Fighting to have a say. To be the leader. Or to hide, to detach oneself from the group or to lose interest because it is going too slow or too fast. Again, not easy. As a trainer, it is important to capture this and try giving space so that each individual in the group can feel welcomed, encouraged and to find their unique place in the group. And in order to make that possible, one has to do away with our own fight, ego and being viewed as an expert, even when in trainer’s role. One has to give the expertise to the group and before this, offer the group space so that they recognise they (can) own it. And when they do, this is what group work is all about. The essence of human existence and connectedness. And I love it, every single time and with every single training I’m privileged to be a part of.
So I never want to be right again.
Thank you Slovenian National Agency for having me as your trainer again and thank you dear participants and my co-trainer to make it a unique and enjoyable event. Best of luck and hope to he