Updated: Dec 21, 2022
We need both speaking and listening skills in a group discussion and in a problem solving situation. But is it right for the group to divided in to two broad categories- the outspoken ones and the silent ones. Should there be an interlap of these two abilities in every individual?
Anita (name changed to protect privacy) grew used to reading one line in her annual reports in her school, year after year. The line read, "Anita is a silent child. She must participate more." Anita says that line somewhat reenforced the fact that she was reserved. While she understood that she must open up, she did not know how to. Year after year teachers continued to brand her as timid even but no help came forward to help her overcome her inability to speak up.
Why are some children more reserved than the others?
True, personality trait is one, but having said that the environment in which children grow also contributes significantly.
Fear of being ridiculed/laughed at
I remember being in grade 7 when I felt the need to overcome my nervousness and ask a question that refused to leave me head. We were discussing Rabies and how a dog infected by Rabies can pass it on to a human being by biting them. The pressing question in my mind was, "How does the dog get rabies in the first place?" I summed up all the courage I could possibly find and stood up to ask this question. What followed continued to haunt my life for a very long time until I found a mentor who helped me. The entire class burst out laughing. Helpless and clueless about what just happened, I looked up to the teacher for help. She was also laughing at my question. I sat down with my head down. That would be the last time I ask a question ever, I told myself.
The inability to think of questions or conjure things to talk about.
Raising questions comes naturally to some while for others it needs a little effort. Giving children the opportunity to find themselves often in situations in which they don't know all the answers and need to find them to navigate through the situation helps them to think and build connections.
Rishi (name changed to protect privacy) used to be compared with his cousin Arun right from the time they were babies. Arun excelled in sports but Rishi had other interests such as reading. Arun hardly read and yet Rishi was never recognised as a reader. He was only made conscious of his inability to excel in sports. Rishi learnt to always compare himself with others and found more faults in himself, in the process completely destroying his confidence.
Being silent is a way to escape attention
If there are outspoken members in a group, it is so much easier to let them do the job rather than make the effort to contribute and be ridiculed for it.
How do small cohort groups help?
First of all these groups tend to be more informal and smaller compared to the school classroom. The facilitator has the chance to mediate discussions and show how every member can support another member who is stuck or feeling nervous. As time goes by camaraderie builds and they discover common interests.
The outspoken ones learn to show empathy and actively listen
Children who are bold like to hear themselves and jump at any opportunity to speak. They often find it difficult to wait for their turn out of the fear that they may forget. Being so engrossed in their own thoughts it becomes very difficult to listen or to even notice that there are a few silent members who haven't shared anything. They could have important angles and ideas to contribute to the discussion. By ignoring them we might just be passing up on something really valuable.
Lead by listening- to be a good leader you need to be a great listener- Richard Branson
This is when a facilitator needs to step in and sensitise the outspoken ones to notice that there are members in the group who haven't had a chance to contribute. This step enables the outspoken ones to recognise the fact that they could lend a helping hand to those who are hesitant to contribute. In this process, they learn to listen, to show others empathy and in the process learn the art of making concise contributions, allowing room and time for everyone to be heard.
Confidence grows when peer support is strong
If the fear of ridicule is eliminated, the ability to think and contribute grows. When one's contributions are heard, one's self confidence grows.
Both programs offered by Talking Circles adhere to the philosophy of collaboration and mutual support. We need a subject, a purpose to come together for group discussions. The Young Readers' Club meet to talk about books and read together. They dabble with writing and share it in our group discussions. The Young Writers' Club comprises of teens who meet to read and discuss curated news articles, present and discover new perspectives, toy around with real life writing applications and challenge one another to think differently.
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Both weekday and weekend batches are available at the Young Readers' Club. While this program is for the 8-11 age group, the Young Writers' Club program for the 12-14 age group offers a weekly platform to read and discuss curated articles from the news, observe writing approaches and practise one's writing skills.
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