A Knight’s Tale (77.1: Experiential Groups)

Dolly’s comment on https://derrickjknight.com/2021/12/11/a-knights-tale-77-as-long-as-i-can-have-that-one/ has prompted me to offer something about my experience of groups.

First I must say that I believe that where we come in our families is a fundamental cause of how we behave in such similar bodies; thus, as the eldest of five siblings it has been natural for me to adopt the leadership roles with which life has presented me.

The idea of experiential groups is that the facilitator does not take a leadership role, but listens and observes, in order to give members the opportunity, by participating, to understand what is happening. Whilst I was training I learned my natural position from my relationship with the then facilitator. We of course expected her to take a lead. She didn’t. I challenged her to respond. She remained silent. I don’t remember clearly what followed, but I took on the job of urging the other members to work out how we were going to function. Not only was I leading, but I was satisfying the group’s need for leadership.

Another principle of group work is known as pairing. This is when two members thrash something out while the others watch to see what happens. I think that is what Wolf and I were doing when, in a seminar, we got into a twenty minute argument about whether we were to be the newly conceived Social Workers or the Child Care Officers we had been before the course began.

My readers are already aware of some of the professional management and chairing roles I have undertaken. More will follow in due course.

I have twice undertaken jury service, each time in a different part of London and some years apart. On the first occasion, when younger, and not having learned what I have spoken about above, I was an active participating member, who had some sway on others, but I had no official leadership role.

The way the service works is that we are expected to elect the foreman immediately, without discussion. If, as this time, the cases are all short term, the membership of each changing group will include some who have served on earlier cases, with some who haven’t yet played a part. On the second occasion I was elected five times out of six.

I formed the opinion that the outcome of a case was more about group dynamics than about justice. For example when the pairing mentioned above occurred I was able to intervene by challenging each debater to explain why he or she took such a stance. One gentleman who patently was not prepared to find anyone guilty, told us that his son was due to face a charge the following week.

One of our cases involved a young man who had been arrested on a pretext by a group of police who had been drinking out of hours. He was then charged with stealing something from one officer’s car. It was so patently obvious that the police were lying that a concerned inspector appeared in the visitor’s gallery in the afternoon. We walked into the jury room to debate our decision. There was a bell for us to communicate this. Without giving anyone time to sit down I simply asked if we were all agreed. With no discussion, everyone said “yes”. I pressed the bell. We returned to the courtroom and I delivered a not guilty verdict.

This made me feel guilty about a previous verdict in a case where the key witness was one of those in this one and we had, perhaps naively, believed him and delivered a verdict of guilt.


  1. We are all human after all. Your comment about our position within families is interesting too: I am the third child of four and the only girl. This has benefited me enormously in terms of getting on with boys throughout my schooling and working in male-dominated situations.

  2. I’m number 3 or 4. Maybe I was just a bossy kid. My eldest sibling had/has special needs but I always considered him as the eldest. As a teen I was the “kid sister” but not by my siblings but by their peers. I was mostly afraid of everyone during my school years so I left school early for the bottom of a group role. I learn more by watching the dynamics and process. I learned more there than at school. With me being the eldest daughter had more to do will specific leadership roles.

  3. Interestng isn’t it how things unfold in groups? I had to sometimes curb my instinct for some intervening when the clients were hashing things out and emotions began to run rather high…but, of course, there are other ways. One can also sublty redirect if needed. Yet being present while things play out is truly valuable in counseling. And hard to do effectiveyl!
    By the way, I am the youngest but leadership and forthrightness have always come naturally to me–and that could be challening with four siblings who also have had strong personalities and assurred, assertive ways!

  4. This is so VERY interesting, Derrick!
    I think birth order and how that plays out is so fascinating! I am the baby in my family! (I know! That explains a lot! 😉 HA! 😀 )
    But, in groups I am often chosen to be the leader. I’ve been a leader (trying to lead others, even those older than me) since I was a preschooler. 🙂 But, I can be a great follower/helper to a good leader, too.
    I’ve served on two jury cases. I should blog about them sometime.
    (((HUGS))) 🙂

  5. An interesting post, Derrick. I suspect you’re right about juries, and appreciate how you shared your experiences.
    There’s a big gap between my and my two older siblings. I think of my brother, who is the oldest, as not so much a leader, but independent perhaps.

  6. My eldest Victoria is a born leader and has been since she gained her first little sister. This has continued in all walks of her life.

    I was a late addition in our family and much younger than my brothers, but have always been happy to take on leadership roles.

    When my third daughter was just eighteen she was called for jury service. She was so out of her depth. It is far too young to be making such important decisions.

    1. When Jackie, aged 20, with Matthew in arms and Michael standing beside her, answered the door to election canvassers asking her would she be voting for their party she informed them that she was too young to vote. Thanks very much, Sue

      1. Oh, I like it, and I’m guessing voting was still age 21.
        Someone once asked my husband if I was his daughter! There were only two years between us!

  7. Interesting encounters, Derrick. Your interaction your facilitator, reminded me of what I understand a Quaker Meeting to be like, where everyone sits silently waiting for the Spirit to move on someone to speak.

  8. Derrick, this is a fascinating narrative of your experience as a juror, and your approach to life in general. Hindsight is always 20/20, because we learn and grow. It’s heady stuff being responsible for the outcome of a trial. You are a gift to this world with your integrity and experience.

  9. I love the way you describe leadership, Derrick. As the oldest of a pack of brothers, I can relate. I am often a reluctant leader, but I can read a situation and know when a leader is needed.

  10. I am sixth of six. I am definitely never the leader but I have always done more than my share of the work. (I got used to having it downloaded onto me. ?). In my last year of employment I was responsible for more of the revenue for the year than everyone else in the company combined – 6 people including my boss and his son. ?

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