So you think you might leave your Table


It’s easy to skip out of things when they aren’t going as you planned. Maybe you’ve been to your Table a few times and what you experienced was not what you expected.

To be honest, I get this feeling supporting my football team*; what I would like to happen and normally what happens are two wildly different things. Another defeat was not planned in my head; the manager said that the team had worked hard and were ready to take on their next foe. Yet, my team resolutely sits in mid-table obscurity yet again. My hopes of the Premiership seem a far flung dream. 

My team’s only small taste of glory was in 1909 when they lost to Manchester United in the FA Cup Final. My dreams aren’t going to translate into wins. The thing about this though is that there is nothing I can do about my team’s performance.

Anyway, let’s bring this back to the possibility that you or another man might want to leave your Table. That was not in the plan, was it!

Every Table goes through a rough patch. Yes, every Table. Good men leave Tables without having had a taste of what it is like to sit in a room with other good men, talking about what is really going on. Not just footy and shit (oh, the irony.) Some men leave thinking, “That was not for me”, or something like “I wish (insert man’s name here) would just stop interrupting” or “I did not come here to talk about politics or (Insert man’s name here) issue with the local council.” When the Fundamentals aren’t in practice, a Table can feel wobbly, and stuck.

So why should men leave when other men aren’t following the Fundamentals?

Are you the man thinking of leaving? Are you the man thinking “Well I’m pretty sure John and Frank are also both thinking of leaving the Table as well. What a shame”.

Let’s stop here for a moment and think about this, if there are three of you that are not happy, there are probably more men at the Table who feel the same way. Men leave, numbers dwindle, the men left just carry on talking “footy and shit”. You never hear from John and Frank again and that is a real shame as you could see a couple of good friendships forming. Don’t let one member’s blind spots cause a Table to become wobbly. Call it out, you can do something about it.

This is where the fierce conversation comes into play and done right, does nothing but strengthen the Table. I always find it upsetting to hear good men leaving a Table because nobody referred to the Fundamentals and asked that they were followed; trust me the only time they do not work is when they are not followed!

There are two phrases that two wise people close to me use. One is “Nobody ever thought leaving the elephant (the issue) in the corner of the room was a good idea.” In other words, if there is something, an issue bothering you, talk about it, bring it out on the Table, deliver it with care and love and that elephant might decide to leave the room. The other phrase is “Clarity is kindness”. In other words, if you are clear with people you are being kind to them. Be clear with your needs at the Table. If you think your needs are not being met, talk about the elephant with clarity. How is that for a mash up of phrases?

One man at a Table has recently written a short piece he will read out at his Table. It is a request that men at his Table talk from the heart and use the “I” statement. This is his way of not leaving the Table but stay sitting at it to make sure the Table is a great place to be.

Another example is Dave** “I joined a Table in need of somewhere to talk about a life-changing event. After sitting for a month or two, and attending other activities as well to help me keep my mind busy during a really tough time, I began to feel frustrated at just listening to other men and being unable to respond to their stories…I wanted more interaction and conversation so I wondered if this was right for me.

I brought it up with a couple of the men I had become friendly with, and it turned out they also felt they wanted to contribute more to the conversation, so I wasn’t alone but I wouldn’t have known it if I didn’t bring it up. So as a group, we had a discussion about our needs – to be more open and to invite feedback from one another. We also decided as a group that incorporating an activity other than just eating at our Table would help keep discussion flowing.

Now I feel more connected with the men at my Table because after dinner we play darts, encourage feedback and have some really open and honest conversations. I have made some good friends that I see outside of the Table, and I am definitely in a better place. Now, it feels good to be there for the other men when they need it.”

So here are two different scenarios; one is my dream that my football team will one day do something wonderful to win games and get promoted. The sad fact is that there is zero I can do about it. Nothing. I will have to hope that something will happen, because I can’t leave. I am stuck with this underperforming team.

The other scenario is in your hands, you can leave your Table; but you don’t need to. Instead you can do something about the situation. Look at the Fundamentals, call them out at the Table and don’t leave. You are very likely to have a great conversation that will strengthen the Table.

Stay, sit and get your needs met at the Table. If you leave you will never know.

*My team is Bristol City.
** Name changed to protect privacy

~ written by Ben Hughes

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