Pocket Processor - Human Continuum

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.

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