In counseling, I often like to talk about Tuchman’s 4 stages of group dynamics when it comes down to group conflict at work or homes, and for couples.
1 The forming of the group. There’s no conflict and everything seems okay on the surface. We are polite to each other. We don’t want any conflict. Things are still new. It’s interesting, novel, and exciting. It’s the “honeymoon” period.
2 The “storming” which is often inevitable. We are now able to express our differences in opinions, values and beliefs. We are now “more real” which is a great thing, if we can manage it well. If we cannot manage it well, we run the risk of being stuck in a “storm” of fight or flight responses, and if we are not careful, we can take this experience with us into other domains of our lives. This will inevitably create more storms.
3 The “norming”. We come to the true “emotional acceptance” that we are all different. We have different values and beliefs. We have different ways of thinking. We now have the emotional literacy to appreciate and acknowledge each other and to ourselves that none of us are perfect. Every positive has a negative, and negative has a positive. Two or more opposing ideas and beliefs can coexist, and complement each other. When one is right, the other one doesn’t necessarily have to be wrong.
4 The “performing” which is the exciting bit. At this stage, we truly realize that life is a team sport, and we are able to bring the diverse personalities together and work towards a common meaning and purpose.
So the real question is, how often are we or our patients get stuck in the storm? The “norming” is a good way out, to get to the “perform”.