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The group decides collectively to do a round of withholds or unsaids. This gives people an initial opportunity to declare their interest or lack of interest or emotional availability to participate.

If you look around and you notice there is someone with whom you feel some tension, or with whom you are feeling less open to communicating candidly because of some unexpressed feeling or undisclosed upset, then you have a withhold.

One of the purposes of these groups is to move through these feelings, or beliefs, by expressing them. Another purposes is to increase connection, and one way we block connections is by letting little upsets or fears pile up.

Imagine it this way: we each have a "communication channel" to each other.

When we don't say something, and it is still bothering us, then that "unsaid" or "withhold" starts to clog the channel.

Whatever is unexpressed and/or released starts to pile up and the "communication channel" between us then becomes clogged.

This limits our ability to be authentic and fully engaged with the other person. So, sharing withholds is done in order to keep a channel clear and release a block.

Because these are sometimes hard to hear, you should ask permission of someone. The standard format is:

Chris: "Sandy, I have a withhold for you. Can I share it with you?"

[Sandy checks in to make sure they can do two things: 1) they can actually listen to something that might be difficult to hear, and 2) be able to contain their reaction to hearing it.]

Sandy: "No"

Chris:  "Thank you."


Sandy: "Yes"

If Sandy says "No", the conversation ends and it is important for Chris to not try to convince Sandy that he should be allowed to tell her anyway. After the withhold is shared Sandy says: "Thank you". A back and forth about the content of the withhold does not take place until 24 hours have passed.

When Chris tells Sandy the withhold, as much as possible, they talk about their distrust or judgement, rather than venting from an angry place. "I heard that you said ______ and I felt upset about that. I thought you were being selfish and inconsiderate." OR "I saw you do ______ and I made it mean that you _______. Now I worry that you will ________." Do not get too hung up on the format, Chris is encouraged to express how they feel about whatever it is Sandy did or said. 

Your job when someone shares a withhold with you is to listen, and not respond. It is helpful to remember that when someone shares a withhold with you, it is in order to increase their sense of connection with you, not from a desire to blame or attack. After the withhold has been expressed you say "Thank you" to the person. If you did not understand their share you can say you have a clarifying question. But if you do not agree with what they said or you want to correct their understanding of what happened, this is not the right time for that.

In some cases the person sharing can request that the listener say back what they heard, to ensure their communication got across. If this is done, the listener shares back, sometimes word for word, what they heard and if it is close enough to what the person sharing said, then you are done.

Usually withholds are done in clusters, as in the entire group takes time to see who has withholds with whom and then several people take turns sharing withholds with various others, always starting with: " I have a withhold for you. Are you open to hearing it?"

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If You Really Knew Me...

"If you really knew me..." is one of the most basic tools for a transparency group. You complete this sentence with something which is largely not known by the group. It could be personal, it might be significant or just interesting:

"If you really knew me you would know I had a fight with my lover this morning."

"If you really knew me you would know I am afraid of heights."

"If you really knew me you would know I want to change jobs"

"If you really knew me you would know I am doubting my faith"

"If you really knew me you would know I don't trust my boss"

"If you really knew me you would know I have felt sick for days"

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What Is Hard for Me to Say Is...

Shame, embarrassment and reservation are all targets of transparency techniques. This simple blank exercise is a sister to "If you really knew me". It is also usually done in a go-round format and can be followed by Crosstalk.

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What Are Your Blind Spots?

This could be done as part of a Hot Seat exercise or by itself. People take turns volunteering to be the focus person. Everyone else shares their thoughts:

What do you think are the problem areas that a member of the group is not seeing about themselves? Are they denying something which others think are true? Etc.

People hearing about their blind spots are encouraged to start responding by saying "What feels true about what you are saying is___" Rather than responding defensively or contradicting the suggested blind spot. As with anything in transparency groups, you participate because you want to see yourself more clearly and hearing from others is a way to achieve that.

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With many tools it is important to let people finish what they are saying, or for everyone to get a chance to speak before you add something which was inspired by the things others said. And an important part of transparency work is saying how things others have said impact you, especially if they evoke strong feelings. Crosstalk is where you respond to another person's spoken sharing.

Suggestions for Crosstalk:

  • If you are hurt or angry about something said, start your talk with asking if they are ready and willing to hear your feelings ( see: Withholds).
  • Be concise and if possible specific
  • Talk more about your feelings and less about what you think.
  • Use sentences starting with "I..." rather than "You..."- This will help eliminate judgmental statements, which tend to raise defensiveness and are generally recommended to avoid.
  • Crosstalk should be about things between you and the person you are responding to regarding things that they have just recently shared with the group.
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Request an IC-Warming Seed Package

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange has partnered with The Transition in order to help new intentional communities get off the ground with growing their own food. If you are on Phase 4 of Your Action Plan you are eligible to request an IC-Warming SeedSESE_logo.jpg Package that will be a starter kit of seeds to grow for your new community. SESE has asked that you provide the following information when you send in your request:

  • You inform them The Transition referred you.
  • Specify what crop types you are interested in (i.e. easy to grow, stuff kids would like to snack on etc.)
  • Tell them a little about your intentional community's Mission and regular activities.
  • Give them an up-to-date address to send the seeds and their latest catalog to.


To request your packet e-mail them at and provide the information outlined above in your e-mail. If you have any problems submitting this request please contact your Point Person for assistance.


Take Note: Offer is only one package per new budding community. Have the Seed Person of your BUD submit the package request.



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Flow of Feelings

Quick emotional cycling techniques borrowed from Emotional Brain Training:

The Natural Flow of Feelings, also known as Emotional Housecleaning:

This is a method of taking some trash out. Only one person does a flow at a time, the others only listen attentively and do not interrupt or comment. It is a flushing out of emotions. 

"I feel angry that ___"

"I feel sad that ____"

"I feel afraid that ___"

"I feel guilty that ___"

"I feel grateful that ___"

"I feel happy that ___"

"I feel secure (or hopeful) that ___"

" I feel proud that ____"

Following the order and trying each one on is an intention and an attempt to fan out the feelings, as getting in touch with things that might be obscured is though to help us move past something. Identifying what might be affecting us is a powerful way to overcome it, or at least understand it and ourselves. The sentences should be short, and simple language. Think of 5 or 6 year old language.

Sentences do not have to be factual, you are encouraged to try on something even if you are not sure- no one is taking this as truth. For example:

"I feel angry that my husband hates me"

"I feel sad he thinks I am ugly"

Staying away from very meta abstract sentences such as:

" I am angry that I have a negative interpretation of my husband's actions"

Instead go for:

"I am angry I think ___"

Also feel free to represent feelings, especially encouraged with 'angry' is to say " I hate that" or "I can not stand that" or curse. Make it real. After you have exhausted angry, sad, afraid, and guilt, move on to the grateful, happy, secure, and proud side. Repeat each category until you feel done. It is ok to move back and forth from angry to guilty and back to angry, if stuff comes back up. Follow the general order, but do not worry if feelings show up "out of order".

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Hot Seat

This tool selects a specific person who the entire group will ask questions of- usually for a fixed period of time (between 5 & 15 minutes is recommended).

Questions should be designed to be helpful and make the focus person be self revealing or gain deeper insights. The person in the hot seat should try to help the group see them more clearly- to be transparent.

The people asking the questions should not avoid difficult or challenging questions, but their questions should come from genuine interest and/or good intentions. It is ok to be critical, if this will help the person see themselves more clearly and reveal self destructive patterns.

In the last minute, the time keeper asks for 'burning questions' indicating that time is almost up, and encouraging those people who have not asked their significant questions yet, to no longer postpone.

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In the average American household, the television is on for more than four hours a day. Many households have a television in every room in the house. Some don't have a television at all. What are your habits concerning television? What are your preferences for what you watch and when? What can you live with in terms of having television on in the kitchen, living room, and other common areas? What "must you have" concerning television and what would you "like to have" in your living space?


Sources: Sharing Housing: A Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates

Contributors:  Annamarie Pluhar

Recommended Books: Sharing Housing: A Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates

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True Colors - Cyndi Lauper

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