5 Principles for Peer Empowerment.

I developed five principles for relating, which will transform how you connect with others.

In my community VYVE, we practice peer empowerment. Peer empowerment involves peer support, learning and accountability. In all our interactions, whether we are teaching each other something or sharing a personal crisis, we subscribe to a methodology for relating.

A principle of relating is a rule for engaging in human connection. The methods of relating I describe here come from the practices of improv, therapy, and authentic relating. They deepen our connection to ourselves and others.

Often, it does not matter what people say that makes us feel close to them. It’s the quality of their presence and authenticity; they are being fully human. For this reason, I decided to make these principles of relating a standard within my community. VYVE is not a typical networking or mastermind group. VYVE is here to empower, connect, and nourish us in ways that other entrepreneurial communities cannot.

In this article, I simplify relating into two core practices: Sharing and responding.

Sharing is when one person has the floor to share a situation or challenge they want to discuss. In VYVE sessions, they have 5 minutes to do so. Sharing is an opportunity to explore and express what’s really going on in our personal or professional lives. Sharing may be a request for help, or may not.

Responding is about communicating the emotional impact of the person’s share. Responding is done by the people who heard the share. Responding is about relating, affirming, and reflecting on what was shared. If the sharer asked for something specific, responding is about giving the sharer what they asked for.

Here are the five principles of relating within VYVE.

Give Space.

When someone is sharing, we give them space to share. In our sessions, they have up to 5 minutes to expand and explore their feelings, uninterrupted. After this, we respond to what has been shared. When we are responding, we are aware of how much space we are taking up. We practice pausing to let others in. We avoid rambling. We are not the only ones talking.

Beyond the sharing and responding dynamic, giving space is invaluable to intimate connection. Pausing and allowing others to respond to what we have said is what promotes emotional connection.

When another is sharing:

  • We give them space to share until they’re done.

When we are responding:

  • We are aware of how much space we take up.
  • We challenge ourselves to speak in concise terms.
  • We practice pausing.

Be Present.

When we are empowering our peers in a VYVE session, we are doing one thing and one thing only — fully hearing the individual who is sharing. We are noticing their emotions, body language, and choice of words. We are noticing where we feel resonance, or resistance. We are writing down suggestions or perspectives so they don’t fly away. The quality of attention that we bring to our sessions determines the quality of connection we experience.

When another is sharing:

  • We do not respond until the person sharing has indicated they are done.
  • We take notes if something valuable comes up for us.
  • We listen with our full attention.

Feel Your Body.

When we share our situation with our group, we practice being fully human. We go beyond the intellect. We don’t just explore the what, how, and why. We explore the impact it had on our emotions and mental health. We describe how we are actually feeling in all of this. Not only that, we are not afraid to feel it right then and there and be witnessed by our peers.

When we are sharing or responding:

  • We get real.
  • We practice courage by sharing our authentic feelings.
  • We give others the benefit of the doubt if their authenticity triggers us.

Validate and Relate.

After someone has shared in the circle, we validate what they’ve shared. This can occur in different forms. We can echo something they have said. We can share how our experience is similar. We can describe a shared feeling. After validating what they have said, we can share our perspective — this is about supporting them as an entrepreneur.

When we are relating to the sharer, we prefer the word and over the word but. We build off each other within VYVE instead of killing ideas. Creativity and curiosity are not fueled by disagreeability and criticism. We never begin sentences with: “I disagree.” It just isn’t constructive. We add to the discussion or deepen the discussion with a discerning question.

When we are responding:

  • We share personal experiences and feelings relevant to what was shared.
  • We practice curiosity.
  • We are constructive.

Ask and Receive

When we share, we make it clear what we’re looking for: emotional support, entrepreneurial perspectives, feedback, or ideas. Whatever the sharer asks for guides our responses. When someone shares, they may not be looking for advice. They may want to be witnessed in their situation and its difficulty. They may want to know that they are not alone. Until the sharer asks for advice or wisdom, peers are there to relate, witness, and facilitate exploration.

When someone does request support, we share our own experience or we ask questions: “Have you tried X? It worked for me in Y situation.”

When we are sharing:

  • We ask for what we want.

When we are responding:

  • We share our personal experiences.
  • We do not use SHOULD statements.
  • We relate as humans AND as entrepreneurs.

And for virtual settings! Show and Tell.

It’s easier to understand someone when they show us visually what they mean. This is why screen-sharing is encouraged in VYVE sessions. If there is something you want to show the group, do it. When you combine visuals with verbals, you increase your clarity.

When we are sharing:

  • We may use screen-sharing to show the group.

The five principles of peer empowerment are to be practiced in our weekly VYVE session. I am looking forward to relating to you on a human level 💕

— Jacques W. Martiquet

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