Notes on The Art of Gathering, by Priya Parker
Defining Elements: form, purpose, the needs of the group, attachment, linkage, frame the event, Ichi-go ichi-e: 一期一会, 聚(Gather), level of participation/presence, the mediator, acclimate to each other, a member of what
Need to better understand: small talks, gathering flow + rhythm
People attach meaning to a meeting’s purpose & its form
The gathering should be sharp, bold, meaningful, and disputable
Pleasing everyone is not that thrilling, don’t have to do that
Willing to be alienating can be dazzling
Specificity/ tight and lose fit/ people can see themselves in your gathering
What is the desired outcome
Who do you incorporate into your social routine?
Gathering well isn’t a chill activity.
How to arrive at a purpose? No gatherings could possibly serve so many purposes at once
Not too many things, just something
Exclude with purpose, set boundaries of who belongs
Conflicts can often unearth the purpose
Corresponding to the ideal size of a gathering
Exclusivity vs. Diversity
1. Who fits but also helps with gathering purpose?
2. Who threatens gathering purpose,
3. who is irrelevant but feels obliged to invite?
Perimeter, Area, Density
Containing and Leaky spaces for conversations and activities
Think: What helps people remember？
The venue should displace people/invite them into your context through your symbols;
First, you determine the venue, and then venue determines which side of you gets to show up;
The venue always comes with scripts and works toward your purpose
A ubiquitous strain of twenty-first-century culture is infecting our gatherings, being chill – the desire to host while being noninvasive.
Chill is a miserable attitude when it comes to hosting gatherings. Hosting is an exercise of power; abdicating it does not necessarily make your guests ‘free’, guests who had chosen to come to your kingdom want to feel governed-gently, respectfully, and well.
Often, chill is you caring about you, masquerading as you caring about your guests
How to rule with generosity(the pretender, the heckler),
Why the enforcement of purpose, direction, and ground rules:
- Protect your guests and internal relationship
- Equalize your guests
- Connect your guests: start the night with # of host-guest connections than guest-to-guest connections, then ends in reverse
In a group, everyone thinks about other people’s needs
The important gatherings of someone’s life are what: birth, adulthood, wedding, death…
Rules and practices to cross cultures
Small reorientation can shift the dynamic of the room, such as giving a few roles to each table
Compassion and Order:
- You are the boss. Hosting is not democratic, just like design isn't. Structure helps good parties, like restrictions help good design.
- Introduce people to each other A LOT. But take your time with it.
- Be generous. Very generous with food, wine, compliments, and introductions. If you have a reception, before people sit, make sure there are some snacks so the blood sugar level is kept high and people are energized.
- Always do the placement. Seat people next to people who do different things, but this can be complementary. Make sure they have something else in common, a passion or something rare. Tell people what they have in common.
- Within each table, people should introduce themselves, but it must be short. Name, plus something they like or what they did on the weekend or maybe something that can relate to the gathering.
- For dessert, people can switch, but best to have it organized: tell every other person at the table to move to another seat.
Each gathering is a temporary alternative world
The clash of etiquettes (social ladder) vs. Pop-up rules (rules create an imaginative, transient world, to democratize)
Preparing things and people, priming-signal people the time and mood of your gathering.
Prime your guest from the moment of discovery of your event,
Your event begins at the moment your guests first learn about it,
Asking guests to contribute to a gathering ahead of time changes their perceptions of it.
Two elements in Priya’s workbook:
1. Something that helps guests to connect with and remember their own sense of purpose as it relates to the gathering
2.Something that gets them to share honestly about the nature of the challenge they are trying to address
The psychological threshold
Gathering is a social contract; there are always expectations
Ushering helps you to carry your guests across a threshold, to cross the beginning line together.
The passage way is not prescribed; the host needs to create it.
The guests’ arrival and the opening is a threshold moment. Anticipation builds between the initial clap of thunder and the first drop of rain; hope and anxiety mingle. And then, when that opening moment finally comes, it is time to give your guests a message: a magical kingdom exists, and you are invited inside.
The first and last 5 percent of the gathering,
climatic moments of talk
Sponsor and host are the masters of an event,
To your guests:
Between awe(you beyond guest) and honor(guest beyond you) -
how to assume a kind of familiarity and confidence
What are horizontal and vertical connections?
Importance of group seeing, the introduction, and acknowledgment
Cold call, open, read
How to keep people real? How to take the emotional risk
Why would people share authentically
We need to design for what we wanted
“I was seeing, and I was being seen.”
The sprout speech(new info, unsolidified ideas) vs. stump speech(the standard stories)
Crucible moments: challenging moments in our lives that shape us in some deep way and shift our lens on the world
Between theories or experiences
If people were simply asked for their stories, they will tell
A gathering should push for people’s experience over their ideas; this can help to undam realness.
Story is about a decision that you made. It is not about what happens to you. And if you hit that and you get your vulnerability, and you understand the stakes and a few other things, people will intuitively find great stories to tell, and as soon as they do, we know them. We know them as human beings. This is no longer my boss’s colleague. This is a real person who had heartbreak. Oh I know that.
Perfect normal language: I went through that, I know exactly what that person is saying
The Stranger quotient,
Dark Theme: integration of the shadow.
The fear, borders, and strangers. The ones that allowed for many interpretations. The ones that let people show sides of themselves that were weak, that were confused and unprocessed, that were morally complicated.
The host always shares more than the guests
Harmony and controversy
The Host handle good controversy with structure and care: cage match, to ritualize controversy from implicit to explicit, to sort out and relieve tension around lingering dispute, a space, and contact to relief dark energy, the constructive and generous heat, to identify the hot spot of the group and organize the conversation around it, and everything is protected by some ground rules
How to make a HEAT MAP(what are possible hot spots)
Dig below the typical conversation into the bedrock of values
ASK: what are people avoiding that they don’t think they are avoiding? What are the sacred cows here? What is unsaid? What are we trying to protect? And Why?
Between transgression and progression
Should there be enough good to outweigh the risks and harm
RISK: a threat to one’s current state that could destabilize the way things are
There is no ending without an ending
How you end and start: accept there’s an end, the mortality of your gathering
Create intentional closing to help people face, rather to avoid the end
Opening(ushering) mirror ending(the last call)
How do you issue the last call??? An outbound usher, signal to wind down
When and who to make the call?
Anatomy of a closing: corresponding to two distinct needs amongst guests – looking inward [taking a moment to understand, remember, acknowledge, and reflect on what just transpired, and to bond as a group one last time/ recall not what we did but who we were here] and turning outward [to prepare to part each other, and retake your place in the world/ separation and reentry. “What of this world do I want to bring to my other worlds?”]
How do I turn an impermanent moment into a permanent memory?
A place for pledges, threads
The advantage of extremes is that the dynamics are easier to see
Sometimes, it can be just a pause, a moment, a tight squeeze to acknowledge what has happened.
Rubin Dunbar, Richard Saul Wurman, diner en blanc