This is an exercise we suggest practicing in community, of a group larger than 4. We often refer to this type of exercise in our small group material and thoughts below are shared within the context of a small group.
What is mutual invitation?
Mutual invitation is an exercise we borrowed from Eric Law’s book The Wolf Shall Dwell with the Lamb. Law uses it to reveal and equalize the power dynamics that exist in groups. He finds it especially effective in multicultural communities because it helps reveal how often the white majority members perceive greater personal power within the community than do many minority members. It is very helpful in making group members aware of how they interact within the group and then also assisting them to reflect on how this affects the community. It may be useful for your group to use this discussion format on a regular basis, or you may decide just to practice it a few times as a training of sorts.
Why participate in mutual invitation?
Mutual invitation is a practice of humility. It allows us to become aware of our tendencies in group discussions and to be more hospitable towards others in the room who have valuable experiences and thoughts to contribute to the group.
The first time you practice this, it will likely be very awkward. The tendency will be to give up and go back to the whoever-wants-to-talk-can-talk approach. However, persist through this to at least try it a couple times. Also, do not allow people to interrupt or speak when it is not their turn. Gently remind them that it is not their turn to speak. Similarly, if someone “passes” and chooses not to speak, do not pressure them into doing so. If a person speaks very briefly or passes and then does not remember to invite the next person to speak, do not invite for him or her. Simply point out that this person has the privilege to invite the next person to speak. By ensuring that this person still has the privilege to invite, you affirm and value that person independent of that person’s verbal ability.
How does mutual invitation work?
- The discussion leader should let the group know approximately how much time will be allocated for this particular portion of discussion. (The time will depend on the questions or topics that you hope to have everyone in the group answer or speak towards.)
- The leader will then introduce the topic or question to be discussed. This will typically come from the small group material. It is often helpful if the small group has access to the material to refer back to the question during the discussion.
- Next, the leader introduces or reminds everyone of the discussion process which is as follows:
“The leader or a designated person will share first. After that person has spoken, he or she then invites another to share. Whom you invite does not need to be the person next to you. After the next person has spoken, that person is given the privilege to invite another to share. If you don’t want to say anything, simply say ‘pass’ and proceed to invite another to share. We will do this until everyone has been invited.”