Tips for Trainers
Using objects, as symbolic representations of an experience, or personal attribute can be a very effective approach to processing. These activities engage participants in creating or choosing symbols representing a group success or individual strength or accomplishment. The strength of these types of activities is that they are not threatening to participants and facilitators, and leave the opportunities for creative and meaningful interpretation of an experience wide open. Participants can attach their thoughts to a tangible object that they can touch and show to a group during group discussion or take away with them to represent their experience. This helps thoughts and ideas reach depth and character in a way that doesn‘t happen with dialogue alone. Because the participants can talk about the object or image rather than about themselves directly they sometimes express thoughts that otherwise would be left unsaid (A Teachable Moment, Cain, Cummings and Stanchfield 2004). Objects and images can be used to liven up the traditional sharing circle by providing interactive, kinesthetic ways to engage participants in group dialogue.
Directions for Metaphor Cards/Chiji Cards:
- As an introductory activity participants can choose the card that best represents a strength they bring to the group, or a goal they have for the day, course or program.
- As a pre brief in the early parts of a program spread the cards out before the group and have them pick a card that best represents where they are at that moment. At the very beginning of the day/program, spread the cards out before the group and have them pick a card that best represents where they are at that moment. Ask them how they are feeling and to pick a card that matches where they are mentally coming into the day. Go around the group and ask each participant to share why they picked the card they did and why that card represents them or where they are. If you start the day with this activity, it is good to end the day with this same activity.
- Spread the cards out before the group and have them pick a card that best represents an experience or a feeling that they had during the activity or at the end of the day. You can do this at the end of the day or after an activity. Go around the group and ask each participant to share why they picked the card they did and why that card represents them or an experience they have had. Participants can each pick their own card, then draw it or write about in their journal.
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- What? Report the facts and events of an experience, objectively.
- So What? Analyze the experience.
- Now What? Consider the future impact of the experience on you and others.
I have a client in the Denver area that I visit once a quarter. I’ve been working with them for close to 15 years now. The first time this client called us, they were looking to fix a relationship problem between two employees on their team. It was pretty fractured, and when I did my initial Needs Assessment with them I could tell it would not be difficult to surface the behaviors through an experiential activity that needed to be addressed.
One of my favorite activities that surfaces behavior preferences and differences is called the Human Continuum. I use a deck of cards called the Pocket Processor. This round deck of cards uses the Ying Yang metaphor and has two different behavior preferences written on each card. For example, one of the cards in the picture has these two behaviors printed on it: Enjoying Chaos / Enjoying Order. I use these cards as my question prompters to allow people to reflect on what their preferred behavior preferences are. Here is how I set up the activity:
I put a line down the center of the room with a rope (or an imaginary one!) and ask everyone to stand on or near the center line. I then explain that the rope is going to represent the center of the Ying and Yang. Then I’m going to read off the two behaviors on the pre-selected cards (designate which side of the room is for one behavior and which side of the room is for the other), and then ask the group to ‘Vote with their Feet’ and place themselves on which side of the line best describes their behavior preference. Further explain that the further away from the center they move, the more rooted they are in that behavior preference. Five feet off the line would mean I slightly prefer that behavior, 10 feet would mean a little bit more, and 15 feet would mean I strongly prefer this behavior. Have a quick discussion around how neither side of the line is right or wrong, they are just different, and that each behavior comes with its strengths and its limitations. (Pre-select cards that reflect the behaviors the client wants to address in the program).
Once participants have moved to their location of choice, I then have them look around and see where their closest co-workers have placed themselves. This is where the magic usually happens, and where the proverbial light bulbs start to go off. I usually state, “For those people that are standing near you, you probably just said to yourself, ‘I knew you were cool for some reason!’ or ‘These are my people...’ And for those on the extreme other side of the line from you, you might have just said, ‘’I knew she bugged me for some reason.’ or ‘No wonder that guy drives me nuts!’
I usually start out with some ‘lighter’ behaviors like:
- I’m a self-motivated person / I’m more motivated by others
- I enjoy Order / I enjoy Chaos
- I’m a Careful Planner / I’m more Spontaneous
I usually do 4-5 lighter behaviors, then move onto a few ‘deeper’ behaviors:
- I embrace change / I resist change
- I express my frustrations when I have them / I keep my frustrations to myself.
- I avoid conflict / I confront conflict
On some of the deeper topics, I also give them an opportunity to move to a location where they wish they were on the continuum. Then, once they have moved I say, “However many little steps you just took to get to this new spot, how many little steps would it take in the real world to make it happen?” Then it becomes a goal setting activity as well.
In the instance of my Denver client, this was the activity that surfaced the extreme behavior differences between the two individuals that were clashing with one another. She was an extreme Careful Planner, and he was an extreme Spontaneity guy. She felt de-valued whenever he wanted to quickly move on an idea before she had had a chance to really put her thoughts or action items in place. He felt like she always slowed down the process and could never make decisions quick enough for him. Once they were able to ‘see’ how extreme opposite their behavior preferences were, she piped up and said, “Now that I see it like this, I can appreciate the fact that you are just wired this way, and that you are not doing it to de-value me or to make me mad.” It was a real breakthrough for them.
I have 2-3 other activities I use with this deck of cards. They are a personal favorite of mine and I don’t leave home without them! What are some of your favorite don’t-leave-home-without-them tools? Purchase your deck here.
- Make a really loud noise until someone tells you to stop.
- Stand really close to someone until they tell you to go away.
- Shake for 60 seconds.
- Lightly punch 5 people in the arm and grunt when you do it.
- Tell 5 people what you think about what they are doing.
- Do 15.3 Jumping Jacks.
- Get everyone to sit on the floor and be quiet for 1 minute.
- Do a log roll, but don't be obvious.
- How is this activity like everyday life?
- How are the behaviors demonstrated in this activity like interacting in a group setting?
- Each behavior demonstrated in this activity could relate to a behavior in the real world. Which ones do you think pop up in your day to day?
- How many of you were surprised to hear some of the jobs that were done? Why do you think you missed them?
- Do you ever have to put your own needs on hold in order to help out another person? Give an example.
p.s. NCCPS is where I presented for the first time to my peers and colleagues. Now I make my living doing it full time. Find yourself in Boulder next month. You will not regret it.
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