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  • Writer's pictureAnderson Petergeorge

The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters - Priya Parker

Overview

Delves into the nuances of how we meet and why it matters, offering a fresh perspective on the importance of purposeful gatherings. It examines the transformative power of well-designed, meaningful congregations and how they can shape our social and professional lives. Through practical strategies and engaging stories, the book aims to equips readers with the tools to host gatherings that create deep connections, memorable experiences, and lasting impact.


Notes

  • In countries descending into authoritarianism, one of the first things to go is the right to assemble. Why? Because of what can happen when people come together, exchange information, inspire one another, test out new ways of being together. And yet most of us spend very little time thinking about the actual ways in which we gather.

  • It is the way a group is gathered that determines what happens in it and how successful it is, the little design choices you can make to help your gathering soar

  • The art of gathering, fortunately, doesn't rest on your charisma or the quality of your jokes

  • Gatherings crackle and flourish when real thought goes into them, when (often invisible) structure is baked into them, and when host has the curiosity, willingness, and generosity of spirit to try.

  • Decide why you are really gathering

  • When we don't examine the deeper assumptions behind why we gather, we end up skipping too quickly to replicating old, staid formats of gathering. And we forgo the possibility of creating something memorable, even transformative.

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  • For example, in planning that networking night, what if the organizers paused to ask questions like these:

    • Is our purpose for this gathering to help people find business partners or clients?

    • Is the purpose to help guests sell their wares or to get advice on the weaker parts of their product?

    • Is the purpose of the night to help as many people from different fields make as many new connections as possible, or to build a tribe that would want to meet again?

  • Example: build a bench at eye level so that the judge and defendant can see at eye level. Not looking “down” at them

  • People begin to attach meaning not just to the a meetings purpose but also to the meetings form. Ex A specific gavel is always used. The rope or come to expect these elements of form and event take comfort in them. Over time the form itself plays a role in shaping people’s sense of belonging to the group and their identity within that group. This is who we are. This is the way we do things around here.

  • Ichigo ichie - one meeting, one moment in your life that will never happen again

  • Ask not what your country can do for your gathering, but what your gathering can do for your country.

  • Reverse engineer an outcome

  • The desire to keep doors open to not offend, to maintain a future opportunity is a threat to gathering with a purpose. You will have begun to gather with purpose when you learn to exclude with purpose

  • If you want a lively but inclusive conversation as a core part of your gathering, eight to twelve people is the number you should consider. Smaller than eight the group can lack diversity in perspective; larger than 12, it begins to be difficult to giver everyone a chance to speak:

  • This number 150 also matches the number of stable friendships that the anthropologist Robin Dunbar says humans can maintain

  • The environment should serve the purpose. Realize people walk into specific rooms like a boardroom or courtroom and immediately fall into the same pattern of behaviour

  • To paraphrase and distort Winston Churchill, first you determine your venue, and then your venue determines which you gets to show up. If figuring out the guest list is about deciding who best helps you fulfill the purpose of your gathering, figuring out the venue is about deciding how you want to nudge those chosen few to be the fullest versions of themselves and the best guests.

  • Famous photographer Platon, who has taken photos of so many world leaders. Would have everyone sit in a bartered white box to temporarily displace a leader from their throne to get a more genuine shot.

  • Perimeter for a gathering is key. Need to ensure it is closed to create a cozy environment and that the “energy doesn’t leak out”. A table with no heads at the end ends up turning into two seperate conversations if people are sitting side by side beside each other. By having a closed space it makes it more of an intimate chat. Takeaway: try and create spaces / dinners in a square rather than parallel lines

  • Area - the bigger the space the less energy to travel between people. If you are in a big space use barriers like chairs to make a smaller space so that people can run into each other and chat more

  • Chill is selfishness disguised as kindness

  • The idea of a masquerade party first started when a host pushed out of the norm and invited royalty as well as middle class people who he was fond of and told everyone to wear masks to mix and mingle. This shocked the world the next day when they found out the guest list and who was intermingling between who which they didn’t think was possible

  • The moral of this story is that connection doesn't happen on its own. You have to design your gatherings for the kinds of connections you want to create. And, again, it doesn't have to be elaborate and complicated. I once heard of a couple who found a clever way to seed connection among their wedding guests. At the entrance to the reception, they left a hint to each guest to seek out another specific guest they were told shared one similar interest-for example, to find the avid skier who once quit a management consulting job to become a ski instructor. They knew that, absent such instructions, friends and family who knew one another would seek one another out and stick together.

  • Set a timer eg 60 seconds to equalize your guests and to allow everyone to speak and feel connected in certain speaking situations 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, and with compliments/introductions. If you have a reception before people sit, make sure there are some snacks so blood sugar level is kept high and people are happy. 4. ALWAYS do placement. Always. Placement MUST be boy/ girl/boy/girl, etc. And no, it does not matter if someone is gay, Seat people next to people who do different things but that those things might be complementary. Or make sure they have something else in common; a passion or some thing rare is best. And 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.

  • Another technique - have partners introduce each other

  • Jeffersonian Dinner - you cannot talk to the person next to you, you can only talk to the entire table

  • Etiquette allows people to gather because they are the same.

  • Pop-up rules allow people to gather because they are different-yet open to having the same experience.

  • We discovered from these experiments that spending eight hours together as a group is fundamentally different from spending four hours together on three separate occasions. The longer you're together, the more reality sets in. You can only small chat for so long. People (including you) get tired and cranky; walls start so come down. By the time late afternoon arrives, people begin sharing stories of their pasts, of their struggles with money, parents, religion--topics that don't always come up easily. And is was these conversations that truly mattered and made me feel less alone.

  • Priming - before your event starts it has begun

  • 90% of what makes a gathering successful is put in place before

  • Priming matters because a gathering is a social contract

  • The opening is, therefore, an important opportunity to establish the legitimacy of your gathering

  • Attention is at its highest at the outset. Because of what scientists call "cognitive processing constraints," we're not able to remember every minute of an experience. Our brain effectively chooses for us what we will remember later. Studies show that audiences disproportionately remember the first 5 percent, the last 5 percent, and a climactic moment of a talk. Gatherings, I believe, work in much the same way. And yet we often pay the least attention to how we open and close them, treating these elements as afterthoughts.

  • Do not start with logistics when starting a gathering as your guests will remember just this and will take away from the moment eg. Remember bathrooms are here etc

  • He takes a ball of string and throws it to a student, saying something nice to her. And then the child continues the practice, holding her part of the string and throwing the ball to another student and saying another nice thing, and so on, until the group has built a spiderweb of string. "If I tug my end of the web, everyone else feels it move, and that's what a community is," Barrett tells them. "All of your choices, all of your actions, large or small, will affect everybody else."

  • Being vulnerable with people makes them feel for you

  • Why, I asked, was it important for people to probe their darkness? "I think it makes the world a better place," she said with a laugh. That sounded too simplistic. Why did letting people be dark make the world a better place?

    • She thought for a moment. "Because I think if they know who they really are, they don't have to compensate with anger or self-hatred or all those things," she said.

  • It is often easier to confess parts of our lives with strangers, who have no stake in our lives, than with intimates who do.

  • The power of the stranger lies in what they bring out in us, With strangers, there is a temporary reordering of a balancing act that each of us is constantly attempting: between our past selves and our future selves, between who we have been and who we are becoming. Your friends and family know who you have been, and they often make it harder to try out who you might become.

  • "You're all her because you are remarkable." I acknowledge their remarkableness and then l add, "That said, we don't want to hear about your resume or how great you are. We already know that

  • In drinking establishments around the world, bartenders loudly announce last call. Why? To prepare you for the end of your time in that place. To allow you to resolve whatever unfinished business you may have at that bar- be that settling the tab or or. dering a final drink or asking that man for his number. The announcement of last call unites the gathering of the bar around the knowledge of the night's finitude. I believe many gatherings- in homes and workplaces and beyond could benefit from adopting the idea behind issuing the last call.

  • A strong closing has two phases, corresponding to two distinct needs among your guests: looking inward and turning out-ward, Looking inward is about taking a moment to understand, remember, acknowledge, and reflect on what just transpired-and to bond as a group one last time. Turning outward is about preparing to part from one another and retake your place in the world.

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