Mar 28, 2023 13 min read
My journey with T-Group Labs
The article attempts to capture the author’s intense experience laced with pain, introspection, relief and unbridled joy while attending T-Group Behaviour labs. In these labs, 10-12 individuals who are previously unknown to each other, learn about themselves through interaction with each other. In this process, they use feedback, problem solving, and role play to gain insights into themselves, others, and working of small-groups and their internal dynamics. A facilitator intervenes at times with his/her insights. But it’s the participants’ raw enthusiasm, keenness, articulation abilities to some extent & learned acumen that take the process forward.
My journey with T-Group Labs
I was doing fine….or so I thought!
Busy schedule, meeting deadlines, passionate interactions with colleagues; some appreciations in the form of ‘well-done-pats’ on the back….and of course occasional inevitable frowns from boss as well.
Time was flowing in a rhythmic stream…or so I thought!!
And hence it was a bit of a surprise when I was nominated for a ‘Human Behavior Lab’ that was to be conducted at Agra on a residential basis under the aegis of a renowned Applied Behavior Science Institute of the country.
My first reaction to such a proposition was of immense skepticism, in fact shock.
Till then I had harbored the idea that I was easily acceptable and had the ability of getting along with people…even the ‘difficult’ ones. That I had recently become a father and the program demanded to stay away from the new-born for a week was also making me feel insecure, agitated within. I conveyed these feelings to my boss in no unambigious terms. He heard me patiently but stuck to his decision and implored me to attend the programme. ‘I assure you…you would immensely benefit by attending this as you would discover many things about yourself that you don’t know now’…was his polite yet firm message.
So on a slightly wintry afternoon…on a benignly chugging train journey…I reached Agra from Delhi, my then-posting …not expecting much but was curious to know what was in store for me.
That evening was spent among completely unknown faces with bits of fun and ‘play’….just to unfreeze and bond.
Each ten-to-twelve of us was assigned a group; later I realized that these groups were constructed with meticulous care to accommodate completely unknown individuals from diverse ages, cultures and both genders.
The journey begins
The start was bizarre…to say the least. There was one faculty (later we got introduced to him as the ‘facilitator’ for our group) among us, who preferred to stay completely mum for most of the initial period…precisely the time when we thought we needed him the most. So we started chit-chatting among ourselves. We got to know each other abit by then. It was then that our facilitator very slowly started to speak. To our surprise, we found him that by then he had memorized each of our names, gave a very brief overview about what to expect (“the unexpected”) and to resolutely stay in the “HERE AND NOW” (a theme that has had a profound, still-unraveling impact on me even eighteen years hence) and try to come out with feeling statements.
We slowly started to get a hang of the situation…
With no official agenda to follow and no lectures to concentrate upon, our job was only to interact with the others in the group.
Slowly and surely, we began to realize that there were many walls among us, various biases, prejudices. In this process, the facilitator’s interventions and insights were of immense help.
From the initial state of shy bonhomie, we began to become intense with each other. There were the heated exchanges, even calling of names (well, almost)!
We were being slowly unmasked….
All of us knew, obviously with varying degrees of understanding…..that since none of us was previously known to each other…we hardly had any vested interest in pulling each other down. Facilitator only insisted that all feeling statements/feedbacks for others…good or bad…be backed by raw data. He also pointed to remain upfront with expressed feelings rather than being bogged with unexpressed dismay and bitterness (even hatred) hidden within self. He pointed out that since we were in a ‘lab’, the idea was to experiment different streaks of behaviors on strangers that we were to each other then and see for ourselves what actually works and what doesn’t.
After a shaky, tentative start to the week, those five days passed like a gentle breeze! A bunch of disparate individuals almost unknowingly became a group by the end of it with a strong sense of bonding. No surprise then that we parted with tight hugs and the promise to stay connected.
At the end of this lab, we were told that this was only the ‘Basic’ level and that we were welcome to attend the next level of ‘Advance Lab’ as well!
So enchanted I was with this experience that I was determined to attend the Advance Lab. Happily enough, my Boss agreed immediately…this time with a chuckle.
…To the next level
So I came to the Advance Level, high with expectations and honestly couldn’t wait for the ‘fun’ to resume.
The start this time was at a frenetic pace without any iffy hesitation…afterall we all had gone through Basic Lab before. Everyone was articulate, every soul ready to unshackle and unleash. I had a torrid time to cope up, being fed up with waves of nasty feedbacks after my over-zealous initial flings. I had the sinking feeling within that my clothes were getting lost in front of my own eyes without any promise of return. I was struggling for a shelter within. In short, the first two days was a nightmare that wasn’t obliging to be over.
But from third day onwards, I became a different person. Defiant and yet calm…not ready to take anything lying down. It didn’t go unnoticed. With data I praised an individual, who was being walloped by the group; and gave firm, constructive, emotional feedback to someone. This caught everyone by surprise.
I felt free, unshackled..as if retooled for life ahead. The journey was so intense this time, that there were not only hugs, but raw tears when we parted. Some associations, in fact relationships, even seventeen years since, still thrive with fragrance!
To mention a few…
I am no longer shy to pick up a conversation with any unknown individual; the much dreaded gender barrier is also gone!
In our organizational life, our basic thrust is probably to stay with logic, our left-hand part of the brain. In this process, the softer aspects…emotions, feelings, creativity take a backseat. But when we take care of this right-hand part of our brain as well and allow these aspects to come out unhindered, the combined force of both these can create an absolutely awesome impact that might take us to uncharted territory.
Most importantly, many colleagues find me fun to work with!
What else do I need?
I can’t thank my participation to those T-group behavior-labs enough.
Is everything perfect about the labs? Well, like most things else…I dare say, no, not at all! When some participants do ‘well’, there’s immediate appreciation from facilitator(s). That’s absolutely fine, in fact justified. However when someone isn’t ‘doing well’ or is not ‘up-to-the mark’….implying (maybe) not meeting the benchmark, things become pretty low…bordering on the nasty…for the participant(s) concerned. And of course forget about any word of encouragement or soft prodding or the proverbial ‘hand-holding’ that is much begged for during those critical moments from the facilitator. In fact, there is sharp criticism, even mocking (not just a mere admonishment)…a virtual write-off for the individual. This gives a sinking feeling from which there can’t be any escape.
But the upsides, as mentioned already, are many and hence is it’s very much worth taking this ‘risk’.
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