Whether you are planning a holiday dinner, a work conference, or a group therapy session, how you design your gathering has a big impact on its outcome. In this episode, Diana and Debbie use the book The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker to explore strategies to make your groups transformative. Grab a slice of pie, some people you love, and enjoy an episode all about meeting with purpose!

Listen and Learn:

  • How to use purpose to design your next party, meeting, or friends’ weekend away

  • Examples of successful gatherings that Diana and Debbie have designed and attended

  • What group therapy teaches us about designing effective meetings

  • Why Debbie is practicing “scruffy hospitality” and why Diana likes to visit her purse at parties

  • Ideas to make your Thanksgiving, Winter Holiday or New Year’s celebration impactful

With the help of this episode, we hope you gather well this holiday season, and beyond!

Resources and Books Mentioned in this Episode:


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Episode Transcript


Debbie Sorensen: [00:03:55] The holidays, give us a chance together and we can gather in an inspiring and meaningful way, or we can just gather without any real purpose or reason. And so for the holidays, we wanted to do an episode about how to gather more meaningfully. And when we talk about gatherings, we really mean any time that people come together for.

Specific reason. And there’s so much research in psychology showing that having quality relationships and spending time connecting with people are really important as predictors of health and wellbeing. So it does matter to take the time and effort that it takes to gather, and it’s even better if you can do so with  intention and creativity.

And as we were preparing to talk about this episode, we were thinking through some of the many different forms of gathering. So you might think about parties and celebrations. Galleries can also mean just getting together with smaller groups of friends or family, coworkers. , it can also mean business meetings, conferences, classes, and even group therapy is a type of gathering.

Diana Hill: [00:04:58] going to be drawing a lot from the book, The Art of Gathering how we meet and why it matters by  Priya Parker. And in the book, Priya Parker tackles everything from finding purpose in your gatherings, to deciding who to invite, how to host with authority, what to do about rules and etiquette.

And. Really how to inspire an off people in your groups. And as we read the book, we thought a lot about examples of gatherings that Debbie and I have attended as well as ones that we’ve created. So we’ll be referring to those as well as the pitfalls of that we got into and creating some of them.

Some of those gatherings have been really life changing for us as attendees and as hosts. 

Debbie Sorensen: [00:05:38] Yes, indeed, and some of the heart of this episode comes from our close mutual friend, Meg McKelvie, who is the person who introduced this book to me. Sometimes we refer to Meg as our Wolf pack leader, which is our group of five close psychologists friends.

You’ll hear us talk about some of the gatherings that we’ve had in this episode and something. I love about Meg. She’s so good at doing this at gathering people. She brings people together in thoughtful and meaningful ways. So for example,  all of a sudden, I’ll get a text from her in February, inviting me to go camping and June, and I’m kind of like, what?

Okay, I’ll do it. So it takes that kind of thought. And I think Diana, she’s the one who brought us together. 

Yes. So a great big gratitude to Meg McKelvie for supporting our gatherings as a group, and she’s really at the foundation of this episode and why we’re doing it today. 

So first, let’s start with thinking about the purpose of gathering.

 So for example, Thanksgiving is coming up around the corner, and if you’re going to be gathering, your focus could be on creating a really special meal with your family, or it could be having a “friendsgiving,” they say to connect with friends who can’t be with their families or don’t have families, could be honoring someone you’ve lost or highlighting a theme for Thanksgiving. A theme that comes to mind is gratitude. , Priya Parker argues that really the most important thing to do before forming a gathering is to start with your purpose, to think about why you’re gathering. And she encourages us to really look at the big picture purpose and also look underneath for a deeper why to the gathering.

And then you want to plan your gathering to fit with this purpose, this, and the outcome that you’re hoping for.

Diana Hill: [00:07:22] So if you think about something like the many baby showers that we’ve all attended, uh, you know, diaper cakes and those games where you put the little safety pin on your shirt, did you ever play some of those games, Debbie?

Debbie Sorensen: [00:07:34] yeah, I’ve done a few. 

Diana Hill: [00:07:35] Yeah. Sometimes they can be fun. Sometimes it can be painful. And a lot of times we may be asking, why are we even doing this? And you know, traditionally baby showers were thrown to help out the family’s financial burden. So you’re bringing gifts to help them out.

But. Maybe different if, if the, the function or the purpose of the baby shower was different than supporting finances. So for example, if the purpose of the baby shower, it is to support the mother in her birth, or the purpose of the baby shower is to support a couple and becoming new parents, you may design the shower differently.

And I’m thinking about baby showers that I’ve thrown, um, such as something like a Blessing Way. Where the purpose was really to support the mother in transitioning into motherhood. And we, because of that purpose, it led to things like bringing a bead to making a birthing bracelet for the mother, um, and sharing our experience, our own experiences with parenting and birthing and passing that on in a circle format.

So really looking at the purpose as the foundation to guide everything after, uh, what you’re going to do in a gathering. 

Debbie Sorensen: [00:08:42] Parker argues that something that might get in the way of designing your gathering around purpose is this question that it might arise sort of a self critique, which is who am I to tell other people what to do or to impose my ideas, others on others.

And I think breaking from just the same old same old tradition can be kind of scary. And Tara Mohr talks about  this in Playing Big, that sometimes we might wonder if we, if it’s okay to do that. But there’s really no Playing Bigger without feeling afraid. And so in order to do this, in order to make gatherings more meaningful, you kind of have to just do it and hope for the best.

Diana Hill: [00:09:20] So thinking about your upcoming Thanksgiving dinner or holiday party, or New, New Year’s gathering, for our listeners, really start with thinking about what is the purpose. 

Debbie Sorensen: [00:09:32] Yeah. So we wanted to give the example of the time that we met. Five psychologists, including the two of us, gathered at a hot springs in New Mexico called Ojo Caliente.

And this was really where the ideas for this podcast came from. And also. Really became the birth of our, we call it our Wolfpack, our group of five friends that come together still. We’re all psychologists and we’re all mothers. And it was just really magical and there was so much meaning in that experience.

And we’ve been coming together as a group ever since. And our purpose, one is to create sort of a group of women who are connective, connected, and supportive of each other and kind of help each other out through the challenges of life. We practice self care and restoration together. We talk about being moms and therapists and other parts of our identity and we learn from each other and kind of almost like a therapy for the therapist group therapy for the therapist.

That feels like sometimes. 

Diana Hill: [00:10:31] I was reading a book, uh, by Dan Buettner Blue Zones of longevity. And in the book he talks about, , Moais. And so Blue Zones being the places on our planet where there’s the largest percentage of centera centenarians in the world, and there’s a commonality of these blue zones that there’s an emphasis on community.

And Moai are, uh, in a tradition that comes from, uh, Okinawans in Japan where at a young age, they group young, they group children together into these groups of five. And these five friends become, uh, a lifelong friendship and they commit to providing social, financial, um, support, health support, spiritual support.

Forever. And I think that’s really what our, our little grouping has become as a bit of a Moai and we didn’t, we didn’t know that we had created it, but now we really fight hard to protect that gathering. And we’ll talk more about how Priya Parker, um, encourages us to protect our gatherings. 

Debbie Sorensen: [00:11:35] And it’s really hard, I think, with busy schedules to make it happen and to keep it going 

Diana Hill: [00:11:42] and keep the purpose linked to it 

Debbie Sorensen: [00:11:45] and to keep the purpose.

Another example of a gathering with purpose was the fall reset and restore retreat that we recently did. I participated, came out to Santa Barbara with you, Diana, and with Kristin Ruskey at Good Land Organics Farm. 

Yeah. And the purpose behind that really helped dictate what we did as the group. So though, so we identify the purpose is really helping people, integrating, integrate mind body practices, and then offering a place for a lot of restoration.

Diana Hill: [00:12:14] And given that purpose, it really played out in how we design the day in terms of how much we focused on the body practices like yoga and sound healing, and then how much we focused on some more of the ACT workshops. 

Debbie Sorensen: [00:12:27] And everything, all the little details were sort of designed to make that experience meaningful.

Everything from the setting to the, you know, the flow of the day. 

Diana Hill: [00:12:36] Yeah. So think about purpose. That’s our starting point. The second step is focusing on who you are going to invite to your gathering. 

Debbie Sorensen: [00:12:46] Yeah. And in The Art of Gathering, Parker talks about how. Overinclusion can cause problems. If you just say, you know, everybody come, there’s no exclusion inclusion criteria,

one example of that was at our retreat, we included both therapists and people who aren’t therapists, just regular, you know, whoever wanted to come, which was great, but what we found is that they really had different expectations for what they were hoping to get out of it. So the therapists on their feedback, one did more psychology training.

That was kind of the main thing that they were there for, but really that would probably would have bored everybody else to tears. 

Diana Hill: [00:13:23] Right? Yeah. So exclusion and inclusion criteria are really important in your gathering. Who are you going to invite or not invite? And I think a good example of using our purpose to decide who to invite, uh, is in the safe black spaces that we did.

A, we talked to Dr Kristee Haggins about in episode ninety five, where she talked about healing racial trauma. And. In safe black spaces. These are healing circles for people of African ancestry and from their website, they really delineate what is the purpose of the safe black space. So it’s clear, it’s quote to provide culturally specific strategies and resources to help black people heal from historical and current wounds, both individually and collectively.

They also state that safe black spaces are provided a chance for black people to deal with rage, shock, fear, and sadness that so many of us. Were and are feeling in response to racial trauma and violence. And Dr. Haggins in the episode really highlights how important it is to have these spaces be for people of African ancestry and not to have white people or other people in these spaces. Because 

Debbie Sorensen: [00:14:32] That makes sense, that would change the tone a lot. 

Diana Hill: [00:14:34] Exactly. And if it had a different purpose. So if these groups had the purpose of something like diversity dialogue, then it would dictate a different inclusion or exclusion criteria. So Priya Parker talks about exclusion is actually kind and that we can, we exclude thoughtfully and intentionally it can actually activate even diversity within the group because it creates boundaries around something, parameters for that diversity within the group to flourish.

Another example, um, is actually for, for our, our Wolf pack is that we protect the gathering by not having husbands or children allowed. 

Debbie Sorensen: [00:15:12] That’s right. And we might get our families together separately, but when that group of five, that’s kind of a sacred territory. It’s interesting cause I think some of the concepts that she described overlap with another type of gathering, which is group therapy and the dynamics there.

And one of the first things you think about when you’re starting a therapy group is inclusion and exclusion criteria. You have to decide who would fit well with this group and who wouldn’t. And we recently did a couple of episodes with Hope Arnold on, uh, working with people with over control. And she has these skill groups that she does.

And she talked to me. Kind of offline about how when you do those skill groups, you really have to make sure that the people who are coming actually are over controlled in their response style. Because if you have sort of a mix of over and under controlled people in there, it can be a disaster and the material just isn’t relevant.

And you also make decisions like, you know, should, if someone’s very actively suicidal or engaging in self-injury, how would that impact things? I know Diana, you’ve done a lot of eating disorders work and have to make decisions around. You know, do binge-eating and restrictive types of eating disorders both kind of go together cause some in some ways they have a common humanity with eating related issues, but it can also become problematic and that they’re very different and they can, it can invite competition and comparison.

So it’s really important, whether it’s a theory therapy group or a holiday party or. A meeting or what have you, that you’re thinking about who you’re inviting and why. 

Diana Hill: [00:16:43] It seems the size of the group also really impacts the group dynamic as well. 

And again, turning to therapy, therapy groups, it becomes a really different group.

If five people in the room showing personal information versus 15 the five person group may lead to something like an interpersonal process, whereas. When you get up to 15 it could be more of a good skills coaching, and then at 30 we would do something that’s more informational and didactic, like a friends and family informational group.

Debbie Sorensen: [00:17:09] Yeah. Or I might do a patient education series for a large group. 

Diana Hill: [00:17:14] Exactly. So research on group therapy shows that it can be as effective as individual therapy and treating a number of different concerns, but it may act in different ways than individual how individual therapy acts. And I think that some of the research into group therapy applies to our gatherings, right?

Because it’s just a microcosm. People getting together. And what happens and what’s some of the research shows is that the most effective groups have a common identity and purpose. So that’s the first two things that we just talked about. They also, most effective has two co-leaders. And I just makes me think about hosting a party.

If you’re doing it with someone else, you can split up what your roles are and you can both be kind of herding the group and, uh, sharing that task of paying attention to the group dynamics. And peer interactions are also really a key ingredient in the healing aspect of groups. So allowing members to relate to one another really reduces stigma, isolation.

And as Yalom, who’s a really well known, uh. Leader in the field of therapy and group therapy has said that hearing from peers is often more important than hearing from the leaders. So that’s why it’s important when designing a gathering to think about who’s going to be there, how they can learn from each other, and how you as a host can facilitate that connection between members.

 Debbie Sorensen: [00:18:36] according to Parker, where you host should really be related to the purpose. So as an example, some of the locations where we’ve hosted with our group of five friends, we had our first gathering at the hot Springs, and that was related to the purpose of self care.

And we were celebrating someone’s birthday who could really use a lot of self care at that time. And so it felt really related to the purpose. Similarly, we’ve met at a spa in California in the middle of winter. When one of our members of our group had a baby. We met close to her home to support the purpose of gathering, but without putting a lot of burden of travel on the mother.

And sometimes it can go wrong. So with our group of five, one time we went to a more formal training and. The problem was that is that we were there both to learn together about something and also to reconnect as a group. But because we were doing the training, we didn’t really have enough time to connect and so one purpose was fulfilled, which was the training part, but the being together, we really kind of missed out.

And so we even snuck away for part of one of the sessions to have a little mini gathering of our own before we all split up. It felt, which felt really nice. 

Diana Hill: [00:19:49] Yeah. So having the purpose, uh, really guide the location is important. So in deciding to do the reset and restore retreat that we did, doing it at a coffee farm, my goodness, it sets the scene in terms of connection to nature and self care and mind, body, and ecosystem.

It’s just really fit the theme of the purpose of the event. And now that I’ve been. Hosting more workshops that like yoga at a yoga center, it matches a different type of purpose. It allows me to, um, do some more experiential work with people and they can really embody the, the act principles that I’m teaching in a different creative way.

Because we’re at a yoga center. It sets, it sets the tone for what we’re doing, which I imagine is a very different tone than compared to what you do when you do some ACT at a VA. 

Debbie Sorensen: [00:20:41] Yes, I do ACT trainings at in a VA setting, and it’s much more formal. You know, it’s in a very different context. And so we have it usually in a conference room or something where it would feel a little strange for people to be in their business clothes.

You know, colleagues who work together, sitting there on a yoga mat. And so the conference room, usually I luck out if I get a pretty nice one, and sometimes I do, but that’s the setting that just makes the most sense for that, for that. Parker also talks about changing locations for different parts of gathering.

And so there’s something about being able to remit link different parts of a memory to different locations. And so you could think about this in terms of at a dinner party, sometimes people will move around to different rooms in the house or even different houses on the same block to have like a roving dinner party because you can get something out of each different place.

And at our reset and restore workshop, we would move around a bit. We went to the barn where the coffees process for Jay Ruskey to pour and present some California grown coffee. Then we moved outside for juice and under an Oak tree, and then we regrouped on couches and floor cushions. We went and did yoga by a pond and went for a beautiful walk through the  coffee orchards.

So throughout the day we were sort of moving to different environments for different purposes. 

Diana Hill: [00:22:03] Yeah, our brain 

wants to organize the information. We’re more likely to remember what happened at the event if we move people to differ different locations and have a purpose behind each location that matches the, um, the energy and the intention of what you want to be doing in that, in that space.

So. Step four is all about how to host, and Priya Parker doesn’t mince her words when she says don’t be a chill host. She talks about hosting, sort of like how good therapists talk about parenting, where it’s, we think that we’re being kind when we’re being passive and permissive, but actually it can be harmful to the gathering and that we need to set clear limits and be authoritative hosts.

She really says that passive hosts can leave your guests, um, without sort of an anchor and they don’t feel safe when we’re just kinda throwing them out there without any direction. 

Debbie Sorensen: [00:23:03] And again, this is similar to group therapy when the facilitator doesn’t step in, when there’s a problem or kind of redirect when someone is taking up too much space, nobody quite feels safe in that room.

And what Parker says is that your guests will take over the authority if you don’t, and the ones that take over may not be the ones that you really want taking over. So be aware of that. And I think we’ve all had the experience of being at a work meeting or dinner party or a meeting or a back to school night or something like that where someone just won’t stop talking and you really need someone to sort of take command.

The teacher or the group leader or the party host or the facilitator to, to kind of rescue everyone. And one thing she recommends is that you exercise authority at the beginning of an event and that it’s an ongoing exercise throughout. I thought a lovely example of this at a party over the summer that I was sort of invited.

I was kind of an outsider, invited through a mutual friend and it was a group of women and I was brand new to the group. And what. The hostess did was that she had some activities planned. She actively sparked some conversations right from the beginning. She just took the lead. She became pretty vulnerable herself.

She asked questions. It really helped us get connected really fast and it set the tone 

Diana Hill: [00:24:25] What were the activities that she did?

Debbie Sorensen: [00:24:27] Well. First, she had us do something where we wrote a fact about ourselves on our name tag, and then people were kind of sitting in different clusters in the backyard, and she just started by introducing herself and told us all to go around and talk about ourselves. And then she had us sort of move inside and she gave away little prizes to people. Um, so it had actually some structure to it and it really helped. Everybody just warmed up immediately and it was, I was really struck by it.

I actually wondered if she had read this book  

Diana Hill: [00:25:00] well, I think also part of that, part of good hosting is keeping track of time and if you have things that you want to happen at your event. You as a host are responsible for moving people from one space to the next. And I think it can be really hard to do that because you may be cutting off conversations or something feels like it’s going well, but you also know this other part is really important.

And I’ve certainly experienced that in workshops where there’s been multiple presenters or providers, and I know that I have to cut someone off a little bit early to get them to move on to the next. Presenter and it’s in the service of knowing that everyone needs, you know, every, every part of the event deserves the time and space.

So that’s part of stepping into, I think, your authority as a host. And also. Parker talks about protecting your guests and that we can set guidelines to do that. So I remember once I went to a restaurant where actually the host that that sat us down at the table said, Hey, why don’t you all put your phones in the middle of the table?

And the first one who has to pick up their phone because their phone has to pay the check. And they were actually setting a little bit of a guideline where this was a nice restaurant. They didn’t want people on their phones at the restaurant. And so they made it fun, but they also set some boundaries around that.

Debbie Sorensen: [00:26:15] Parker also says to equalize your guests. So you know, when you go to a conference, you usually have a name tag that has everybody’s fancy degree listed. And if you think about, you know, sometimes someone’s there with a fancier degree than you are, you’re in training, you don’t have, that can actually make you feel like you’re not equal.

Or maybe you can’t say anything at this gathering until you get that fancy degree, a PhD or master’s degree or whatever. What would it be like to only put names first? And so you don’t go into it with this kind of. Hierarchy of power. 

Diana Hill: [00:26:47] We can also equalize our guests around what our attire recommendations are. So having people come and see what kind of casual clothing, or, I hosted a birthday party for myself and I just wanted to wear yoga clothes to my own birthday party. So I said, everyone come in their yoga clothes and be cozy and bring a blanket, and it sort of just equalized again that we, that I actually mattered less to me, the dressing up of for that event and more about just feeling comfortable and connecting around it. 

Debbie Sorensen: [00:27:14] Diana, that reminds me a few years ago, my good friend Beeta sent me an article called “In praise of scruffy hospitality: your home doesn’t need to be picture perfect to invite people over,” which was written by Robin Shreeves. And I think sometimes we feel like hosting something has to be a really big event.

We can put a lot of pressure on ourselves. We think our house has to be perfectly clean, and we have to. Make a fancy meal or something. But in this article, Robin Shreeves says that people just really care most of all about seeing you, not about what your house looks like. So a few times Beeta and I made a pact not to tidy up, and then we’d both grab whatever food we needed to get rid of in our fridge, and we’d make a meal for dinner out of it.

We’d come up with a recipe that we could sort of combine the stuff that we had. And really we. Wanted to do a fun, creative project, practical, something that we could do without spending a lot of time or money and most of all just to be together and share something. We both love cooking together.

And by making it simpler and less stressful, we could really focus on having time to connect. And really for most gatherings, the most important thing is to connect with people and to connect people with each other. And it’s important to find ways to bring people together and build cohesion. So one simple thing that you might think of to connect people with each other.

Is as the host find something they have in common. Oh, you know, you’re sitting next to each other and you both have an interest in dance, or you both went to Europe over the summer. Give them something to talk about to help them find a way to come together.

Diana Hill: [00:28:51] there’s also more formal ways that you can increase group connection and cohesion. And I’m thinking about this retreat that I went on in Peru where the yoga retreat leader, we would, we would take these long bus rides through the Andes mountains and instead of just being on the best ride where we could all just be on our phones and do our own thing, what she had for all of the bus rides is each one of us.

One at a time, stand up at the front of the bus and share a story about our sides ourselves. That was instrumental in, um, who we are today. And it was fascinating because people shared their stories about, one woman’s shared her story about trauma and how it influenced her filmmaking. Another shared a story about skin condition she had as a child and how it influenced her work now with college students.

And by the end of many hours of bus riding, we were really closely connected group. Because that host stepped up and made a place for us to connect. 

 Debbie Sorensen: [00:29:50] in her book, Priya Parker suggests loosening up on traditional etiquette. She  invites you to try new things even creating a temporary alternative world and shake things up in interesting ways, to step outside of all expectations of gatherings and make them unique

 so when we did our retreat recently, we had a yoga instructor there and I was doing yoga in the hot sun and all of a sudden it was way too hot and I felt like I was getting sunburned during the yoga and I kind of stayed there a while and suffered in silence. But eventually I got up and put on sunscreen.

And what’s funny about that is that I was lying there for a long time before I did that because I always think of yoga as having this rule that you’re not allowed to get up. And leave, but you can, you can get up and go. 

Diana Hill: [00:30:38] You were breaking the rules, but you were maintaining the purpose of the retreat, which was self care and restoration. And sometimes we need to, as a, as hosts, even Crick create some. Alternative rules that overturn existing rules that may be stalling the progress. So again, going back to the purpose and how you could design rules that support that purpose.

For example, I teach kids yoga and in their regular classroom, the rule is you raise your hand and ask, ask questions. But I find that when I’m teaching yoga, all these kids are raising their hands and wanting to ask questions. So I had to create an alternative rule for this. Gathering, which is we don’t talk in yoga.

And I give, the reason why is because we need to listen to our bodies. And when we’re talking, we can’t hear our bodies as well. So we can create rules that are sort of not the usual etiquette. Uh, so back to creating an alternative. World I wanted to share about the, uh, The Bear That Wasn’t retreat that we did, and it was really fun.

So I hosted all of you to come to Santa Barbara and I think it was like a January last January. 

Debbie Sorensen: [00:31:49] Yeah, I think it was the January before that, but man, neither here nor 


Diana Hill: [00:31:53] and, and I, and I created an alternative world all based on this book called the bear that wasn’t by Frank Taschen, which is a children’s book.

And it’s an illustrated children’s book about a bear who hibernates and then comes back in the spring. And when he comes back from hibernation, he has this whole factory that’s built on top of him. And over the course of the bear, that of course of the book, the bear loses connection with his true sense of self.

And a lot of people tell him who he is and he loses track with, with who he is, which is a bear. And in the end he finds his way back again. So we use this book as a myth throughout the whole weekend, and I wanted to create an alternative reality for people arriving so that we follow through the myths.

So we did everything from going into our own cave, which was a salt cave in Santa Barbara too. Finding, you know, are the people and the people and experiences their life that have lost the led to us losing our voice. And we did writing and journaling around it, uh, and then eventually coming out of the cave and going through like a mud bath and a fire pit and all sorts of things.

But if you create, if you think about a theme for your event, it also helps people move out of what the expectations are of a girl’s weekend into a different kind of reality. 

Debbie Sorensen: [00:33:07] Diana, the thoughtfulness you put into that, it was so cool. And the way you set the whole thing up, and part of what was so amazing is that you did something called priming that she writes about in The Art of Gathering, which is this idea that gathered really begins at the moment of the guests first learns about it.

Right? So for this meeting in Santa Barbara, you mailed us a copy of the book that a week or so before we. Met up and you asked us to read it to our kids the night before we came on the trip. And so it really got us all very intrigued and kind of started creating the process of going into that alternative reality that you had created.

And so what Parker talks about is that you want to spend less time fussing about things like crudites and appetizers and more time getting people prepared, kind of in the right mode. And she also talks about a relating concepts that you did called framing. So for instance. If you’re hosting a funeral, do you frame it as a celebration and remembering, or do you frame it as grieving?

 so what you want to think about from the get go is how you’re gonna frame the invitation. Less focus on, you know, the font, and. The design of the invitationandmore focused on how you’re framing the event. 

Diana Hill: [00:34:19] Priya Parker also talks about how it’s important to see what you calls carry people across the threshold into the event.

So once you’ve primed them and you frame them for what’s about to happen, how are you going to get them to enter into this alternate reality? And one of the big pitfalls that we often do is we start our meetings or our gatherings. With announcements. And what actually really does is it, uh, it prevents us from, , creating a transition into what, what the purpose of that event is.

So, for example, when we started our retreat, we purposely had people come into the barn where the coffee. Was a discussion was going to be held and started it by opening with people, having a cup of coffee. So that’s sort of the launching, getting into this transition of gathering around coffee.

And then another important thing that you came up with Debbie, which was taking people personally down to where they would be. Finding their location to sit and letting them put their stuff down. And I think that’s a really important thing because it creates a sense of home and comfort of knowing, this is my place.

I love it when a host, when I walk into a party and a host has designated a separate room for you to keep your purse, because I always get into the bustle of the party, and then the host walks me there and I put my purse down in that separate room and I feel like, okay, here’s a little quiet space where my purse lives.

I can go visit my purse anytime as an introvert. I need to visit my purse and that quiet space, so 

Debbie Sorensen: [00:35:48] I think that, don’t do that, Diane. Yeah, that’s my extroverted nature. 

Diana Hill: [00:35:52] I know. Go back to the temperament episode if you want to learn more about introversion and extroversion, but it’s, it’s important, , to,  create this, this transition for people so they can feel safe in coming into your party.

And it’s also important because there is a primacy effect, and that what you do in the first 5% in the last five and the last 5% of an event is what people. Are most likely to remember. So if you’re up there just giving announcements, you’re losing that, the attention and that primacy of the crowd. I recently hosted a, the training for teachers, and it was at the end of a busy day, midweek Wednesday, which I used to hate when I was in school.

Wednesdays were so hard and my  harder for teachers. And the way that I started that event was I actually placed yoga mats in a circle outside, and I had all the teachers just come when they arrived and lie down. So we started the event in a circle. Lying down, and this was important because of this idea of transitioning, carrying them over the threshold of standing at the front of the class, talk, talk, talk, talking, and being on into another space, which was for them to receive.

And so it made a lot of sense for them to start, start by lying down with their eyes closed and doing a meditation before we were entering the, then it carries them over the threshold. 

 Debbie Sorensen: [00:37:19] open up and let yourself be vulnerable as a way to connect. So Priya Parker really recommends that we turn off our networking pitch. We turn off that desire to put our best foot forward and impress people, put our ego aside, and get people to be vulnerable, to get people to open up really sets a nice tone.

And so we have a tradition, our group of five. Friends, which I think is a little embarrassing to admit publicly on a supposedly evidence-based podcast. 

Diana Hill: [00:37:49] not embarrassing at all. I embrace it. 

Debbie Sorensen: [00:37:52] You embrace it. I embrace it too, but it’s kind of just funny to talk about it out loud in public. So we do these fun taro cards. They’re really fun.

We have. The latest ones we had were Animal Spirit Cards where you pull a card and find out your animal spirit card. So of making small talk, chit chat, we find out our spirit card and we talk about important aspects of our lives and ourselves and we give feedback to each other. Diana, you were…. 

Diana Hill: [00:38:22] I was a Cobra.

We talked about my Cobra shadow side as well as my Cobra strengths, and then how I want to maybe prioritize my, my life a little bit differently to help out my Cobra energy. And you are Debbie. Yeah. Okay. Well, it was 

Debbie Sorensen: [00:38:39] just, it’s a, it’s a kind of a cool way to open up a conversation about yourself that you might not normally talk about these things.

I was a unicorn, which I’ve been bragging about ever since, the magical creature that I am. I’ve been, you know, every time I sign off on a text, I do a unicorn emoji. Cause I think that’s pretty darn funny. But really, I think what’s great about doing those, these taro cards is that it encourages vulnerability and it allows for.

Our dark side and our shadows to come forward. So we don’t feel as much of this need to impress each other. So we use a card deck called the Osho taro cards that has dark cards in it, and it’s an opportunity for us to talk about some painful aspects of our lives. We use it sometimes as a window into some problems we’re having.

So encourage us, us to share. And as Parker says in the book, we all have shadow material. 

Diana Hill: [00:39:30] Yes, it leads to a much, I think, quick, quick way to get deeper. There’s a lot of ways to do that and part of it is stepping in as a host, the level of vulnerability that you show up with your, your group will show up with a slightly less level, at least likely lower level of vulnerability.

So it’s up to you to set the tone. And one of the ways that. I often set the tone when I’m doing a talk, is sharing a personal story and all of a sudden, and it’s usually a personal story that has nothing to do with the psychology, but all of a sudden, and then eventually we’ll link it to psychology, but all of a sudden, people can get into more of a personal space when you do that as a host.

Debbie Sorensen: [00:40:08] And it’s really true in therapy groups as well, that when when people start to open up and get more vulnerable with each other, that’s when the tone shifts to something that’s much richer and deeper. 

Diana Hill: [00:40:18] Yeah. I hosted a New Year’s gathering and when people arrived, I had them just, I had out on my table this beautiful Joss paper that I like to use at my workshops.

It’s  comes from Chinese money and it has some, , metal kind of overlay in it, very pretty, and I had people write down three things. One thing that they completed this year, one thing that they would like to create. In the coming year, and then one thing that remains unfinished and just let them kind of, as they arrive, they’re eating and just tell them there’s a little task for you at this table.

And then how we ended ended the night was to be at a fire around the circle, and each person shared about their three things and it just opened up. The whole group to do some reflections, both self reflection, but also as a group around some really meaningful things that people had completed.

They’ve written a book, they’ve done a remodel. They, uh, you know, completed projects they want to get done, but also what they were hoping to create in the new year. I really can set the tone when we create connections amongst people. 

Debbie Sorensen: [00:41:19] That’s a great idea. So those who are going to have a New Year’s gathering of some kind this year can try something like that. Maybe a little beyond the usual. Yeah. So Parker also recommends allowing for some controversy and stoking the heat on it a little bit, but also containing it. Um, so one, a way way to contain it is to have guests co-create ground rules.

We do this all the time in group therapy where we kind of come together as a group. When we talk about, sort of guidelines for the group, and you know what people need, what they’re hoping to get out of it. What will help them save, feel safe, and take risks in the group. And there’s something about sort of keeping it contained that helps really kind of keep the dynamic.

A certain way. Otherwise it can be all over the place. 

Diana Hill: [00:42:08] Also, having really having the guidelines be created by the guests, not by the facilitator or host, makes a big difference because then you can remind people that they created these guidelines at the beginning. 

Debbie Sorensen: [00:42:18] And now they have to follow them.

Diana Hill: [00:42:19] Yes. Okay. The last step of a party is don’t forget to close. Don’t let things just sort of fall apart at the end. Have as much intention in your closing as you did in your beginning of this gathering.  it’s important to take stock and really absorb and take in what we’ve experienced at this gathering.

So  Pirya talks about accepting that everything comes to an end talking about ahead of time, giving people a signal to leave. There’s always some people that don’t want to leave, but like linger. I can imagine you’re one of those, Debbie

Debbie Sorensen: [00:42:57] Sometimes sometimes. Not always. 

Diana Hill: [00:43:00] Okay. I’m like out the door. Pre closure. I’m outta here. 

Debbie Sorensen: [00:43:04] I’m not like that, no.

Diana Hill: [00:43:06] But it’s, we could also create some meaning making and  and give people time to reflect. So, for example. In the reset and restore retreat. We were really intentional and where we placed the sound healing and that that was a part of the absorbing of the retreat and really preparing them for the end of it.

And we also gave an opportunity for people to connect one last time. So we ended our retreat. Uh, with this practice called hongi, which is a traditional greeting from the Maori tribe in New Zealand. that I learned from somebody from, from that tribe. And what you do with the hongi is you touch noses and foreheads.

 it’s very different than a handshake. It really is interesting to note that we started, uh, we started a day with a lot of people, nobody really knowing anyone. And by the end of the day, we were able to close by touching noses. So it’s an indicator of the intimacy and connection that was created and just, you know, a few hours together.

Debbie Sorensen: [00:44:03] You also want to prepare your guests for reentry into. Normal life into the real world. Sometimes it can be a bit of a shock to go from a meaningful gathering. Just back to, you know, daily life. So you want to ask them questions like, how are you feeling? What are some of the issues you think you might face moving forward?

I do this with my VA trainings. I do consultation groups in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy that lasts six months. And on the final meeting, I recently adopted a practice where I do an exercise where we spend some time reflecting back on the whole six months of working together and sort of the ups and downs, what we’ve learned, and then I end by talking about what people want to take with them moving forward.

 Diana Hill: [00:44:48] So in the service of absorbing the material and preparing for the ending of this podcast, we really want to encourage you to continue to meet with groups of people. And in doing so, whether they’re scruffy or maybe awe inspiring, make them meaningful. And take a look at Priya Parker’s beautiful book, The Art of Gathering.

Debbie Sorensen: [00:45:04] And Happy Holidays, everyone.