Amy's Blog

Reflection: The Art of Gathering

I cannot overstate how much I enjoyed this book. While I enjoy having the paper copy of books for subsequent analysis, I tend to listen to the audio version of a book that I find enriching-- it stops me from getting caught up in something else or putting down the book to research a phrase or comment. I also tend to enjoy "self help" books in audio format because the message being can sometimes be more earnestly delivered through a human voice.

That tangent aside. I found myself relating to the author with peculiar specificity. I've been a facilitator all four years of college, first as a fellow at the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and cultural understanding, then as a Residential Advisor, and finally in my junior year when I co-founded a reconciliation society that now brings together cohorts of student leaders with ideologically conflicting viewpoints and facilitate conversation.

The Rose Castle reconciliation society is something I'm really proud of and I've been looking for some sort of guide to leave my younger facilitators to ensure that the group continues to produce productive dialogue after I've graduated and I think I'm going to get a copy for the two co-facilitators who are taking over after me.

This book does an amazing job of describing the intricacies of interpersonal dynamics with attention to power structures and physical arrangement while also delicately handling the inevitability of certain human behaviors.

Interestingly enough, when me and my peers started the rose castle society we knew we had to pay particular attention to group size, individual invitations, and group dynamics. Our original cohort is comprised of 12 students-- what we determined to be the sweet spot for conversation. We also debated who to invite and how to invite them. We realized that in an environment like Princeton, where time is a precious commodity, the best way to have students invest in something is for there to be a certain level of exclusivity and pretension. We had the Dean of the Program individually invite each "hand selected student leader" to an "intimate gathering over delicious food." We discussed the wording of the invitation email for over three weeks before sending them out.

At the time, we didn't know why those minor details like: "where will we meet," "should there be a dress code?", "how do we arrange seating" etc. etc. felt so important. I'm glad that after listening to even just four chapters of this book, I was better able to better understand myself as a facilitator and make plans for future adjustments/implementing!

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