Description of a Life-Talk Meeting

To get the sense of a Life-Talk meeting, imagine you’re sitting with six or seven strangers.

The group facilitator says:

“I’ll ask some questions, one at a time. Each of you will then will be given a chance to answer the question, or to say, ‘I pass.’  You can pass on any question anytime.”

“When someone is answering a question, all others are to listen quietly. No comments, approval or disapproval. No crosstalk. We want each speaker to feel fully respected and fully heard.” 

The facilitator then asks, “What is an experience you had recently that felt good to you?” 

Each person then has a turn to respond or pass.

That is followed by other questions. Possibilities:

  • What are two simple things you love to do – and have not done recently?
  • Have you any life purposes? If so, how do you feel about your progress so far?
  • Who has been a big help in your life and how did they do it?
  • Have you a talent or strength you would like to develop further?
  • Are you more like a rose or a thorn?
  • What is one of your personal concerns nowadays?

The process is gentle, unhurried, with many pauses. Each person sharing a bit of their lives or saying, “I pass,” while all others listen quietly, empathetically, interested in hearing how the others will answer each question.

Imagine, then, after forty to fifty minutes of such sharing, the facilitator asks participants what, if anything, they learned from the process. And, after that, asks for their overall reactions to the Life-Talk meeting. Then imagine you hear comments like those below, which are very typical.

Life-Talk Member Comments

"I liked that we all had a turn, so I didn’t have to worry about being left out."

"It got me thinking about things I usually don’t think about."

"It was nice being listened to. I don’t often feel people listen to one another."

"I was surprised at how seriously everyone took the questions, how much we learned about each other."

"When someone shared something deeply personal, I felt I was receiving something precious."

"I now realize I’m not the only one confused. We’re all about the same, which grew a kind of intimacy in the group."

"I think I am not very clear what I want from my life. I’ve lots of mulling to do."

"What a good, honest group! Very enjoyable experience."

That’s an example of a typical Life-Talk meeting.

Two Key Elements Interact

Note how the two key elements interact: Questions that  inspire useful reflection. And a sharing process that  provides practice in healthy living. Together they tend to  elicit the best we have within us.  

Life-Talk groups work well in many settings. In schools, for  example, to improve student mental health and self responsibility.

In business, to improve teamwork and staff  morale. In prisons, to boost personal growth and reduce conflict.

In community centers, to combat loneliness and isolation. In mental health agencies, to provide many of the benefits of group therapy without requiring professional  therapists.

And in colleges, to help student acclimate comfortably and mature healthfully.

The range of benefits can seem remarkable. Here is Jacob Salzer, for example. After eight weekly meetings of a Life Talk group, he wrote that, in his experience, Life-Talk: 

  • reduces stress 
  • increases empathy and compassion 
  • allows for active listening 
  • promotes peace & self-discovery 
  • strengthens relationships 
  • creates new friendships 
  • increases our appreciation for different cultures 
  • increases our patience levels 
  • encourages creativity 
  • increases our sensitivity 
  • expands mindfulness 
  • allows us to hear different perspectives 
  • provides a safe place for sharing 
  • includes light-hearted questions and humor

Life-Talk participant, Erynn Albert, summarized Life-Talk this way:

“It is grounding. It is simple. It’s interactive with no expectations. We don’t have to study or be knowledgeable about anything. Finding our memories and thoughts is enough. And listening.
“Yet we magically leave feeling connected, in a deep way, with whoever is there. And we feel like we did something worthwhile. And healthy. We feel nourished. Fueled.”