Notes on The Art of Gathering, by Priya Parker

Uploaded 11.29.2022

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?

Physical Spacing:

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:
  1. Protect your guests and internal relationship
  2. Equalize your guests
  3. 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:
  1. You are the boss. Hosting is not democratic, just like design isn't. Structure helps good parties, like restrictions help good design.
  2. Introduce people to each other A LOT. But take your time with it.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.


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