Recently, I had the opportunity to hang out in the shadows (literally) and observe Nate Folan (he's in the light colored hat) facilitate a day-long training for a summer camp staff (I was facilitating the next day). Nate was featured a while back in a Top 10 Blog - lots of fun details and activity links.
During the training he led one of my favorite tag games, Popper Tag. Over the years I have called this one Flashback Tag. I use soft tossables or crumpled up paper (snow)balls. The idea is to toss your tossable at the backs of other players. If you hit a back (between the shoulders and the waist - no arms), you get a point. First one to 10 wins.
Add a Transformation Part of Nate's focus with his trainees was to emphasize different aspects of facilitation. Using Popper Tag (PT) as his experiential pathway, he introduced players to the idea of "being silly" and how this (or these) behaviors fit into building a fun caring community of learners. So, he invited each participant to "transform" into the chicken of their choice once they obtained 10 points playing PT. From a group of players to a flock of chickens. Brilliant!
Players were given a challenge and a choice to "chicken" or simply move around amongst the flock of chicken as players, one-by-one transformed. For me, it was a fabulous way to step right into a fun, crazy space. Magical! (Now, I'm not sure all the players would agree with me, but I got the lesson.) Ready to smile? Check out the action.
Have FUN out there my friends. Let me know how the transformation goes!
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
The Video Initially I was going to cut my footage down enough to simply understand the game. As I was editing it occurred to me that keeping all the footage would allow for more analysis of the way I worked with these middle schoolers. So, if you want to watch enough to get the idea, you only need to stay in through my introduction. Otherwise, catch as much of the 17 minutes as you can - lots of interesting interactions (you might need to turn up the volume to pick up some go the voices).
NOTE: The only part I cut out was dealing the cards. To save time, I dealt out three cards to each person, then single cards around (to the right of me) to finish up the deck.
LIGHTNING 156 As this activity unfolded for me, my first mental model was for groups to play all the cards in 156 seconds (this is what I tried with my conference captive audience). I found this task to be pretty challenging - out of six groups trying it, one got within four cards after 156 seconds. Possible? I believe so. Now I'm thinking, Connections will be a good way to lead into Lightning 156. Once a group has time to practice the game and work out some of the cooperative behaviors they will need, they should be able to beat the Lightning clock. (I'll be working towards getting some video of this level in the future.)
Keep me posted my friends.
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
Have You Ever...eaten strawberries and whipped cream on a buttery toasted (nooks & crannies) english muffins? (Oh yes, it's yummy.)
I'm guessing most of you know this classic, "Have You Ever...?" ice breaker activity - I'm sure it's been played by millions! Let's review.^ (If you know, Have You Ever..., you can skip past this review.)
Your group, of 12 to 50 players, forms a circle. Each player is standing on a game spot. You are in the middle of the circle explaining the game. You are going to say something true for you - something you have done/experienced. You preface this information with, "Have you ever..." For example, you might say, "Have you ever been to Canada?" (Again, the statement must be true for you.) If anyone in the group (players forming the circle) has been to Canada, he/she is invited to leave his/her spot and move to another spot that is not directly to his/her right or left.
While this movement is happening, you, or any other player in the middle, want to go stand on one of the spots left vacant by one of the players from the circle (the idea is, you don't want to stay in the middle). There will then be a player left without a spot to stand on (because, in this game, there is no sharing spots). The player, without a spot to stand on, is the next person to share a, Have you ever... question from the center of the circle of players. The moving, getting a spot process ensues after every, Have you ever... question from a player standing in the middle of the circle. .
If the player in the middle shares a, Have you ever... question, and no one moves, he/she takes a bow and asks another question. Remembering, the idea is to get players to move - so you want to ask questions that are likely to produce movement.
What? & Why?
Back in January of this year, I posted the first What? & Why? Discussion about how I use Name Card Return - an engaging ice breaker for learning names and experiencing a simple problem solving activity to introduce the group to the kinds of activities they will be experiencing. (Thought - Can an icebreaker be a problem solving activity?)
The purpose for this type of discussion for me is to tell you "What" I do with a particular process (e.g., an activity) and then, in "Part 2" (and 3, if I needed), tell you "Why" I do what I did.
I'm using this format, on the one hand, to document my thoughts about some of the things I do during team building programs. On the other hand, I'm thinking, maybe those of you who train team building facilitators could use this format of thinking as a training exercise.
First, you can share the What?, like how you lead a particular activity. Don't reveal the Why? right away. Have a discussion on the What? with the trainees about "Why?" they think the activity is set up the way it is, and "What?" purposeful reasons they might have for leading this activity (or process) in this way. Then, share your Why? behind your What? - what reasons/purpose do you have for leading an activity the way you do. (You can design your own What? & Why? discussions or use one of these FUNdoing blog posts to explore.)
NOTE: Believe it or not, the step-by-step process detailed below takes me about 15 minutes to lead. It's a lot of writing for 15 minutes, and an interesting process (for me) to go through.
Okay, let's get this one started:
This was the description of one way I introduce choice to my groups. In Part 2, I'll tell you Why? I do each What?
All the best,
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
^ Have You Ever...? questions first appeared in Karl Rohnke's Bag of Tricks periodical - he started writing Bag of Tricks in 1978. In 1988 he compiled "...the best writing and most useable copy" from his first 38 issues, into the book, "The Bottomless Bag." Have You Ever...? Questions in this book are introduced as a 'raise your hand if you have' activity - as an ice breaker, the questions were a way to start conversations and share stories. In, The Bottomless Bag, Again (1991), Karl expands, Have You Ever...? by adding a circle of chairs - now, if you 'have' you move from your chair to an open chair. And, the game continues....
Fast Ball (detailed below) is an activity found in my Portable Teambuilding Activities book. It's one of those "mental model" activities where (more often than not) groups initially define (via Groupthink) a word (or a direction) in one way and to be successful they need to redefine the word (or direction) - one way to innovate is to redefine something your believe to be true.
After using this activity a few times, Jeremy, a fellow FUN Follower (and good friend) wrote me, asking:
I have a question for you about the game Fastball. I have facilitated this activity mostly with college and adult groups and it does tend to take a while 30 min – 1 hr for groups to complete. When the group finally gets it and is able to complete the challenge, there has been a common reaction of great let down and almost the look from participants like “You tricked us”. How have you led this activity so that it does not take so long that group members check out or become so frustrated by the end. It doesn’t bother me to frustrate a group or to raise the tension but I’ve found it hard to bring the processing back around and be productive because the group is just done with it.
Early on in my team building career, I struggled with this same issue when learning about and working with activities like Fast Ball. (Group Juggle to Warp Speed comes to mind - you create a tossing "order" standing in a circle, but you didn't say they couldn't move from where they created the tossing order?)
With activities like this, I tend to lead them with my adult groups (college age or older) in one of three ways:
1) When I have time, like Jeremy, I will let the activity play out until the shift is made. And, as Jeremy has found out, it can take up to an hour. I have experienced group reactions of success and powerful learnings, and frustration and projected blame on me, their facilitator. (Lots to talk about in both situations.)
There have been times during the later reaction where the group felt tricked and it was difficult to get them to focus back on any learnings that could be brought forward. These groups were not ready to see the learning(s) underneath the challenge. I'm sure I did my best, at the time, to move forward, but these (or any) reactions cannot be predicted. We do the best we can to program activities that will meet the objectives of our groups.
(Here is another interesting topic to explore at another time: What are some strategies to bring a groups "back" from a "negative" experience?)
2) Here is the way I lead Fast Ball most of the time (mostly because I don't have the time to let this play out). I frontload the activity with some information that might move the group to the shift in thinking quicker. I tell them:
"On the surface, this activity might seem relatively easy to accomplish. And, it might be - you might "get it" right away. However, I've seen a lot of groups struggle with this one for one reason or another - the activity is designed to make you think. Remember, when approaching a challenge or task, be mindful of the "problems" you encounter. Solve one problem at a time and keep moving. If you reach an impasse, see this as an opportunity be creative and innovative. I will hold you accountable to the rules and you are free to clarify my expectations about them at any time."
After this frontload I let them play. I usually will remind them of some of the points in the frontload when they seem to be "stuck" - but, for the most part, groups will make the shift and produce a fast time in under 30 minutes.
3) When I program experiences involving objectives around "mental models", "paradigms", "phantom rules" or simply "making assumptions", I will use Fast Ball as one experience, of many, to touch on the learning points. I will move into the "Teacher as Educator" role from time-to-time. I will ask more pointed questions like:
Now, depending on your experiential philosophy, asking these types of questions will not be your preference. As I've learned, there are lots of tools we can use, as educators, to reach our objectives (i.e., the objectives you have for the group or the objectives a group brings with them). Other than giving my group the "answer" (there is little learning here, but it could serve a purpose from time-to-time), I don't want to limit the tools at my disposal.
Again, if I choose to "point" the group in a direction with Fast Ball, I've planned to use more of these "shifty" activities with the hope that my groups will move to different ways of defining and thinking on their own - a skill or behavior I want them to pick up.
Jeremy, thanks for sending me the inquiry. I hope I've provided some insight.
Let me know what your'e thinking about this. Leave a Comment below.
All the best,
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
Activity Objective: Players are challenged to move a safe tossable object to each person in the group as quickly as possible.
Facilitated Objective: Cooperation, Communication, Brainstorming, Problem Solving, Critical Thinking, Innovation, Goal Setting, Failing Forward (trial & error), Mental Models and Phantom Rules (false beliefs)
Needs & Numbers: One timing device and one safe tossable object is needed for a group of 8 to 24 players. If game spots (like rope rings or poly spots) are available, have one for each player. However, spots are not required.
Time: 15 to 30 minutes (depending on the level of paradigm shift thinking)
Circle up your group of players for directions (Note: A circle formation is not required for the activity, but don’t reveal this fact). Explain that everyone will stand on his or her spot. If physical game spots are not being used, simply tell everyone that “where you are standing when you catch the tossable object is your spot”—and say no more. (Note: This “spot” concept is an important factor for this activity.)
Once participants are standing on/in their spots, toss the object to someone in the group. Inform the group that this will be a timed activity. The time starts when the first toss is made and stops when everyone is standing in the spot of the player each participant tossed the object to (e.g., if you toss to Peter, you need to end up standing in the spot Peter was standing on when he caught the object).
This activity has turned out to be an interesting discovery. At first the solution seems to be quite straightforward. However, its simplicity “is an outward semblance that misrepresents” (disguises) the true nature of the activity.
The Rules (these should be simply stated):
Safety: I have not observed any physical safety issues during this activity as the solution does not require fast movements. However, I have seen some groups get rather frustrated. Be sure to monitor the communication so that you can step in if emotional safety is being compromised.
Facilitation: Some groups may have a few questions before they get started. Most can be answered by referring back to the directions. The answer to questions like, “Do we have to stay in a circle formation?” depend on the situation. I answer based on the amount of time I have for the activity—less restrictions to an activity tend to extend its time to completion.
When I throw the object in to start the game, it is sometimes a random choice; other times, I choose someone who might benefit from a leadership experience. However, this does not guarantee this person assumes the leadership role.
Spoiler Alert! (If you want to try this one first, do not read on.) You might be asking, “What’s the big deal? Seems like a pretty easy task.” Here’s the rub—if players choose to move to the spot of the players to which they have tossed immediately, the activity will not end; it becomes a perpetual loop. Think about it. No spot can be occupied by more than one player, so movement would have to be continuous. Now, look at rule three. It says, “After tossing…” but it does not specify precisely when. So, to complete the activity, following the rules (as far as I have determined to this point), all tosses should be made first AND THEN everyone moves to his or her designated spot and time stops! Hmm, interesting. Have a go. See what you think.
Variation: Hand everyone a spot. After the directions are given, have the group decide what configuration they want to make. A circle is still a possibility but not a requirement. I have seen two lines facing each other, which avoids possible complications of rule two as tosses are made across to the other line. A scattered formation is also interesting—no one is directly to the right or left if set up with this in mind.
Fastball can also be a good group goal-setting activity. There have been instances where I impose a goal of a very low time as a way to (hopefully) get the participants to make a shift in thinking.
One of Alfie Kohn's* latest blog posts (Transformation by Degrees) inspired me to put together a few thoughts I've been having about "participant-centered" team building. Now, as experiential educators, most of us know how important it is to build a trusting community of learners by first getting to know our learners (as the teacher discovered in Mr. Kohn's first story). After we get started how do we, as team builders, shift more (or all?) "control" of our learners' experience to them?
*Alfie Kohn is an educational thought leader advocating for less homework, less testing, and more "student-centered" educational practice. He is one of my heroes.
At this time I have more questions than answers about how to make team building more "participant-centered". In this post my intention is to light the fire. Let's see what we can come up with together. To get the wheels turning, let me share a couple of recent stories and then share some thoughts from Kohn's Transformation by Degrees.
One of the things I tried this Spring was to let go of the "harness demo" and have my groups figure out how to get them on - they were in charge of getting it done (and done correctly, meeting safety standards). Now, I did give them some information for safety reasons: The waist belt must be above the waist and, There should not be any twists in the webbing of the harness. It became a nice addition to the group's "team" building experience. It also helped, I'm sure, that there was at least one person in every group that had climbed before (having worn a harness). My groups ranged from 5th graders to adults. Yes, there did need to be fixes from time-to-time (that I pointed out), but they were in charge of getting it right.
On another note, here is a recent story from a fellow facilitator that highlights a factor of "control" (or management) with a group - time. Working with a new group (for a half-day program) my friend wanted to go around the room for (what she requested) "quick" introductions. The first few people shared their name, their role at the company and a little bit about themselves (one minute tops for each) - all was going "as planned." Then, the trend changed. The stories from each participant got longer. The planned (on paper) 10-minute intro activity turned into over 20 minutes of sharing.
So, how do we adjust "control" and still get in everything we've planned? Do we impose a time limit on things so we can get to other things on the list? Are our programs about quantity or quality? Can there be both? How much planning with participants can take place before a program? Do we (and they) have time to do this? Again, more questions than answers right now, for me.
Here are thoughts from Mr. Kohn (from Transformation by Degrees) about moving/ sharing control:
"...those of us who are trying to serve as change agents in education had better not count on teachers’ [facilitators] waking up one morning prepared to adopt radically different practices. In fact, we would do well to have some examples ready for how they can get from here to there step by step."
"It is possible to edge slowly away from traditionalism with respect to just about any specific practice."
"To learn something about the students was to transcend (or at least create the conditions for transcending) traditional pedagogy [team builders are pretty good at this part]. To invite the students to talk with, and then introduce, one another was to transcend an ideology of individualism — learning as an activity for a roomful of separate selves. To ask (rather than dictate) what the interview questions should be was to transcend the default model of top-down teacher control. In each case, what was challenged had simply been taken for granted."
"At each stage, one can move ahead only after confronting the unsettling truth that what looked like a destination turned out to be just a rest stop. There’s farther to go on this journey."
“My job,” a teacher in Ohio once commented, “is to be as democratic as I can stand.” Had she invited me to append a friendly amendment to her declaration, it might have been, “… and my other job is to push myself to be able to stand more democracy next year than I could this year.”
"Perhaps our motto should be: Change by degrees — but don’t underdo it."
What are the changes you are making (or have made) out there to be more participant-centered in your programs? We could put a "best practices" document together and share it with the world. What do you say? Add your ideas in the Comments below.
Keep me posted!
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
Recently, I was a guest on the Growing People Podcast with John Losey. My good friend John and I talked about my journey as a team development professional, what my creative process looks like, my advice to new facilitators and more. HERE is the link to the full 55-minute interview if you have the time to absorb the whole thing.
For those of you pressed for time, the videos below are shorter clips taken from the interview covering a few of the main questions John had for me. I'd love to hear your feedback about my perspectives. Leave me a comment below.
Thanks for watching!!
All the best,
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
Chris Cavert on What Makes a Great Facilitator (7:43)
Chris Cavert Advice to Young [and not-so-young] Facilitators (4:38)
Chris Cavert Apps and Resources [My Favorites at this time.] (5:16)
I really enjoy hearing from people "out in the field". I especially love it when I get asked about my opinion on something I can speak to. It keeps me on my toes. Here's one such conversation I had recently with my friend Floyd. (Floyd provided us with a BOOK REVIEW on Beyond Drama earlier this year.)
I believe you'll find this read worth the time, even though the post is a bit longer than my usual. Floyd and I share our practices of muting, some of the advantages and disadvantages of muting, and an alternative to muting that emphasizes learning and not embarrassment. So, grab a favorite beverage and settle in for the story.
Floyd: Hey, Chris, Happy summer…
I thought I would take this time to delve in deeper to some things I had been thinking about, and see if I can't get some thoughts from more experienced folks I trust and respect. In an attempt to really get in deep, I am approaching each topic individually. If you are up to it, I would love to get your input.
So, this first topic is something I may have presented to you before. That is this thought of muting people who speak the most or the loudest in a community. Often when I see this it is with hopes that the people who don't speak up as much will have their voices heard by folks that talk a lot, and the ones who talk a lot will develop skills in listening and communicating in new ways. Do you have thoughts on this topic, or ways you have used it as a tool? How does it fit into the ideas presented in the stages of group development? What other questions am I not considering about this?
Chris: Hi Floyd, I do hope all is well!!
Okay, I'm going to take some time to extend this conversation you started about "muting people who speak the most or the loudest in a community."
First, I want to agree with one of your assertions. I too believe, in most cases, people are muted by the facilitator (where would the group be if they muted the talk-to-muchers?), with the "hope that the people who don't speak up as much will have their voices heard by folks that don't talk a lot." (I will get back to the second assertion you made with this first one.)
So, we both agree that the hope is others will speak up. Now, as we ultimately find out, muting someone (or more than someone), does not guarantee others will speak up. (We could start with the whole extrovert/introvert dynamics here as just one reason why.) So, as an educative practice, it's not the best tool to use to get others to speak up more. However, when you are a new facilitator (educator), it is a tool. And, you never know. I'm sure there are success stories after implementing the basic mute. To this day, I still threaten to mute when it seems like a "heads up" might nudge the group (or particular person) into a way of behaving. I will say something like this: "You know Steve, I noticing the muting bees have started circling you. They are attracted to a lot of sentences strung together by one person. If you happened to get stung by one of these bees I'll let you know. If it happens your vocal cords will swell up for a certain amount of time. I would hate for this to happen - just wanted you to know." Most of the time this light-hearted information gets the point across in that moment.
This is where I position myself with the basic traditional mute tool.
Let's go to the second assertion you mentioned, "...and the ones who talk a lot will develop skills in listening and communicating in new ways." Here's my "reaction" to this. If someone is talking so much that you must mute them so that others in the group can get some space to talk, it is "inconceivable" (to quote my favorite movie) that this person will make the leap to changing his/her behavior to be a better listener or communicator. It is more likely, when muted (if they stay muted) that they are simply formulating and rehearsing what they will say when they are un-muted.
Now, my "response" to this assertion. If a facilitator uses the muting tool, on purpose, to encourage better listening and better communication behaviors it would be educationally prudent to frontload the expectation. Here's what I would say: "If I end up muting you during the activity, meaning you cannot talk, it does not mean you did anything wrong. It simply means I would like you to turn on your listening behaviors and soak up the information that fills the room while you're muted. Combine the information you hear with the information you have in your head about the situation. Blend this up and see what you get. When you are ready to jump in and verbally share with the group again, go right ahead."
I see this way of muting as specifically "inviting" someone to experience a particular behavior - listening - at a specific time. Also, when I use this tool I don't use it only with the over-talkers. I use it with different people over a progression of activities. Then, we have another talking point to bring up during the processing experience. "What was it like for you going into listening mode after I muted you? Was there any benefit to you or the group when you went into listening mode?
Why do I mute in this way? When I share my process and say you have done nothing wrong, it (tends) to reduce the defensiveness from the participant. They are not embarrassed after being muted (in most cases!) it is simply a part of the experience. The group knows someone in the group is practicing a particular behavior and are often very supportive. By inviting the muted participant to verbally reengage when ready, I relieve myself of being the referee. As an educator, I want to encourage a certain behavior and then let the "student" practice and return to "normal" (for them) when they are so compelled. It's a more open way of learning something at one's own pace. One little step at a time.
Floyd: Thanks for getting back to me Chris. I'm excited to dig deeper into this topic!
First, to answer some of your questions, I am a long-time user (abuser) of the mute tool. a few years ago, however, I was placed in a position in a group where I was the only one not muted. This was a facilitator training at a course in the Midwest I had no experience with, but training as a contractor. The lead facilitator knew I had a lot of facilitation experience. The rest of the community I was working with knew each other (worked together in a residential treatment facility), but were unaware of my experience. As the day progressed, I realized that the lead was using a lot of "one right answer" methods and activities but, instead of encouraging an answer collaboratively devised by the community, he kept looking for me to "speak up" and solve the challenge. Finally as the group was working to come up with an answer for an activity, he muted everyone except me and expected that I would then bring the group to a good answer. This on the spot feeling has since then challenged my philosophy on its use.
Currently I use muting in a general way. I offer it as the consequence for stepping in the muting river, or as the theme of one of the islands on a triangle tension traverse, or use a half blind half mute twist to a challenge adding some unique dynamics. I have, however, stopped using muting on the loud ones. My hope with discontinuing the practice is that I can come up with something that offers groups some tools when they leave. I have come close to something I like, but it certainly needs to be refined. That is, I use an activity as a sort of pathways or grid. We get to the initiative and I will introduce safety concerns that must be addressed during the challenge, but it is up to the group to figure out how to complete the challenge, and by the end know all or as many of the rules of the activity as they can figure out.
As they experiment with things I will let them know when they have done something outside of the rules of play. So far I have had some good success with this and have noticed that the loud people might start out speaking loudly, but when the rules are nothing like they expected, they have to rely on listening to other people for ideas to experiment with, and as the community starts running out of solutions they then find themselves asking the quiet ones to speak up. As an introvert myself, I’ve noticed this invitation from my peers is often what motivates us [me] to share ideas. These ideas might still not be the solution, but everyone sharing and being heard, and everyone experimenting with ideas always gets people further. Again, needs to be refined, but something I am using in place of the mute.
Much more to the point, I stopped using the mute because I feel communities are performing at a level they reached through the storming and norming in their community environment in one way or another. When I mute a person I feel like your description is exactly what happens. That person is not likely to spend time listening (if they stay muted at all), but instead, will be trying to figure out what to say when they get a chance, or how to communicate their idea above all else happening in the group anyway. When they go back to their community environment, the loud ones will continue to be loud and heard, the ones with perceived power will continue to have the perceived power, and the quiet ones will continue to keep their ideas to themselves.
This takes me back to my years working with kids. we would take kids out of the pool to teach them lessons about behaving in the pool. In my experience, I have not seen either strategy work. It is not my responsibility as an educator to remove the challenges or to remove members from the challenge while I'm working with communities. My responsibility is to help the community identify problem areas occurring in their community, and then work with them to come up with actionable solutions they can use back in their own environment.
I agree with you that this can be a tool for new educators to use. My hope for these types of tools for facilitators is just as everything with facilitation; That they will be considered often, and from other points of view. (Today I may not like using the mute, but in conversations with others I am shown that it is a very good tool, and know why and how to use it).
I used to work with a fellow that would challenge me daily to know why I did what I did, how it affected the group, if the group walked away with the outcomes they were looking for and then some, and to find new ways to interact with groups and initiatives. This has been paramount to my growth as a facilitator. While I know this is the environment with many experiential programs, I know, and have worked in those situations, where those early tools just become the rule, and no one really knows why.
I like your ideas about offering muting and listening as tools to the group. I want to write "LISTEN" on a polyspot, and frontload it at the beginning of the day: "If anyone is feeling like they are talking too much, or have been unable to hear the rest of the community, you are welcome to stand on this listening spot for as long as it takes to reach the goal you are looking for. If as a member of this community you need to support someone else by encouraging them to use the listening spot for some reason, please feel free to offer this resource."
Likewise, if someone is feeling like they aren't being heard, or feel like someone's idea isn't being heard, this spot can be used here as well. The person can use this spot as a way of getting the attention of the group to share their ideas. While in the experience you can then process through why a community would need such a resource, and what this resource could look like back in the community environment. Man, I really like this! I can see so many opportunities for communities to take advantage of this.
I fear I have grown long winded here, and running all these sentences together may be causing the muting bees to get to buzzing.
Thanks again for your time!
Thank you Floyd for the inquiry! Let's keep it going.
What are your thoughts around muting participants? Leave us a comment below - carry on the conversation.
All the best,
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
With the goal to "help you understand the drama that may be playing out in your own work or home life and how to transform it into conscious, compassionate, collaboration," the authors, Nate Reiger and Jeff King introduce us to the "Drama Triangle." These two Next-Element co-founders point out that because of drama, relationships are strained, trust is absent, creativity is stifled, and costly turn over rates [in business settings] are present and rising.
"The Drama Triangle," they say, "is a model for how people relate to one another in distress, dysfunction, and conflict." It is comprised of the roles of the persecutor, the victim, and the rescuer, all of whom carry out roles and myths that derail progress and community wherever they operate.
In the persecutor role, an individual falls into blaming, manipulating, controlling, and judgmental behaviors. Their myths are "I'm okay, you're not okay," and "I can make you feel bad emotionally."
The behaviors in the Victim role are withdrawing, being needy, and complaining without doing anything. They believe, "you can make me feel good emotionally," and "you can make me feel bad emotionally."
On the Rescuer side of the triangle we find unsolicited advice, meddling, and people who do the jobs of others. Their myth is, "I can make you feel good emotionally."
It is very easy to get caught up in this triangle, especially when circumstances or other people invite you in. The trouble is, "when you act outside the realm of your best character, you lose power over yourself." The good news is there is an alternative triangle called the "Compassion Triangle" where your concerns, and the concerns of others can be vocalized and heard in an open and meaningful way. "compassion means 'to struggle with,'" the authors state, and it is in this struggle with your community that moves you into open dialogue, problem solving, and conflict resolution. [Concepts we work on with some of our team building programs.]
In the compassion Triangle, the three roles of the Drama Triangle are invited to take on new roles that drive the community towards growth. Here the alternative of the victim is "Openness," and is characterized by "transparency, honesty, assertiveness, and the willingness to risk trusting another person." The Open person knows "my OK-ness is not dependent on another's response."
Persistence becomes the alternative for the persecutor. They work to "preserve the dignity and respect of all parties," and are characterized by "the willingness to stick with someone or something rather than attack, abandon, or blame."
Resourcefulness takes the place of the rescuer and is characterized by the use of problem solving and empowering others.
In the drama triangle communities and individuals often find themselves in tunnel vision rather than seeing other perspectives, looking for justification rather than finding ways of being effective, and being delusional rather than being in touch with reality.
In the chapter titled "Expectations: The Double Edged Sword," the authors point out that the expectations can be used in the content and the process, and that knowing the difference can keep you from derailing the motivation of yourself and others. It is by understanding the motivational needs of self and others that allows someone to create expectations that motivate people.
As a basic example, Nate tells the story of his son who decides he wants to play basketball. Nate, being motivated by conviction felt that the way to motivate his son was to practice every day and shoot certain amounts of shots from different places on the floor, and to run drills. His son, on the other hand was driven by contact. He wanted to play a sport to have fun and to interact with his peers in a sporting environment. When Nate began trying to motivate his son, the son started losing interest because it was no longer meeting his needs, but rather Nate's expectations. When Nate begins just playing basketball with his son, his sons motivation returns. In the Drama Triangle, the relationship between the two became strained, but when Nate was able to step into the compassion triangle, he was able to see the situation from a different perspective and work with his son to develop interactions that worked for them both.
Note From Chris:
I hope Floyd's brief synopsis of Beyond Drama inspires some of you to pick up the book and dive in. For me it's information I can use and share with groups whose members might be showing the behaviors involved in the Drama Triangle. Of course, it will depend on the type of program you are leading, so use your new-found information with care.
Please let us know if you dive in and how you use what you've learned. Leave us a comment below. Also, if you have knowledge of a good book that we should know about, send in a review - I love sharing!!
All the best,
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
Over the last two weeks we've been working through the first What? & Why? activity thinking process. Part 1 detailed the specific steps I take when using the activity Name Card Return as a way to introduce a basic team building program. In Part 2 I shared the reasoning behind each of the first 14 steps of the activity. This week I'll finish up the Why? for the final 14 steps.
Be sure to let me know about this activity thinking process. This first one has been an interesting journey for me - it's been a long one. As I've noted in the other posts, my hope is that this process could be used as a training tool - a way to possibly learn/understand how to be more purposeful in what we do as team building facilitators. Any and all comments are welcome! (Be sure to check out the "Comments" at the end of Part 1 for some thoughts and learnings from other FUN Followers.)
(We just finished up the first official attempt at Name Card Return - everyone has stopped moving so I've stopped the time.)
15. I purposefully hold back sharing the time with the group until after I find out how they believe they did, and if they thought they were successful. This sense is more related to a "process" evaluation of how a task is done rather than the "product" evaluation of time. When I hear different answers about how they thought they did I like to point out that, "We will have differences of opinion during the program - this is part of being a diverse group of people." More often that not we talk about this for a while and why diversity can be a good thing and even why diversity could be a bad thing. Before sharing the time I also like to share other responsibilities that I have, '...provide activities that will challenge you and ask questions..." Again, letting my group know what they can expect of me is another way to build my relationship with them. Throughout the program I will often refer back to what I've told them about my responsibilities in order to curb any false expectations that might be showing up. Note: This step only takes a few minutes - I want to keep them in "action" mode but engage the mind a bit.
16. At this point, after our quick discussions, I share the time achieved and ask if this is the best they can do? Be mindful here of your voice intonation. I keep my voice neutral, I don't use my voice to imply that they can do better. The way we ask questions can be just as powerful as the question itself. In research interviewing terms, we don't want to "lead" the interviewee (group) into an answer we want to hear - we want to be as neutral as possible. Since it was only the first attempt at the activity most of the groups I've worked with believe they can do better. They want to try again. Now, be ready for one or more participants ready to voice their desire to move on. They, for any number of reasons, what to do something else. If this happens you have a wonderful opportunity to talk about, "How do we move forward when we don't have a consensus within the group?" Now, again, I don't spend too much time here at the beginning of a program to teach about consensus building or compromising. I like to put this on the group - what ideas do they have for moving forward? At this point I've done one of two things so far. I've asked those who do not want to try again if it would be okay with them if we could try again to see how it goes. This usually is okay with them. I've also proposed that it is perfectly okay to choose not to try again - those who do not want to try can step out to the side and observe the process and offer feedback during the discussion. This is an example of offering choice. However, I have yet to have any takers on this option. Think about it, what kind of choice is it? Most people will not choose to step away from the "safety" of the group even if they don't want to do what everyone else is doing. They will choose to stay with the group. (Now, if anyone decides to step out before the next round, ask everyone to look at their name card. The player(s) stepping out switch cards with the player(s) who have their card. Then, cards are turned back face down before the shuffle. Also, the perfect circle will include empty spaces left open by those who have stepped out - it works just fine.)
17. Before we begin the process of Name Card Return (and any activity in the future), I ask the group if they are "ready" to start the process again? The Ready Check is meant to "suggest" they can take time to talk about the activity - do some problem solving and planning. I don't tell them at this point what I'm suggesting. I want to see if anyone steps up and says, "No, we're not ready yet." Sometimes players will ask, "Can we talk a little before we start?" The answer is always, "Of course!" (Note: Be prepared for ready check responses from participants that might sound a bit rude - some "reactions" from the group/individuals come across in different ways. All good things to talk about.) In most cases, my group will tell me they are ready to try again without any discussion.
18. Here we start the process again with the Blind Shuffle. I simply repeat the directions again - "Exchange cards with five different people, then stop moving." Sometimes, I also need to remind the group that this shuffle part is not timed - some players tend to jump to this assumption, creating an environment that's not necessary. Another nice discussion topic if the behaviors show up.
19. After movement stops and before time starts I invite them to change cards with someone near them if they happened to peek at the card they are holding. I assure them that, "there is no penalty - it's just part of the challenge not to know what card you are holding." I what my group to know, again, that mistakes will be made from time-to-time. It's our responsibility to learn from them and do something about them if needed. (This is working on the "safe" environment aspect of the program.)
20. Here I start the second attempt of Name Card Return. (Don't forget to start the time once you say, "GO!") I personally follow the same steps from the first attempt - I want to stay consistent with my process. I hold up my card, showing the name on it to the crowd as I call out the name of the person on the card I'm holding. Once I get this card back to the person it belongs to I find a new place to stand on the outskirts of the crowd. Once I'm at my new spot I look for the player with my card - the player looking for me. Once I take back my card I quietly watch the group finish up their card returning and movement into the perfect circle. When movement stops, I stop the timer. Here I (still) quietly wait just a bit to see if anyone recognizes anyone out of order. If movement resumes I start the time again. When everyone believes we are all in the correct place, time is stopped.
21. Again, I ask the, "How did you do?" questions, keeping the process consistent for the group - they begin to know what to expect from me at this point, in this process. Hopefully, we begin to feel a bit more comfortable with each other and more participants share in the discussion. At this point my group realizes I will not "call" on people or expect any particular answers to the questions proposed - there is a degree of safety and freedom to participate. This tends to make people more comfortable and willing to share. After some brief sharing I tell them the second time they achieved.
22. When the group finds out their second time we will discuss their reaction to a better time or their reaction to a slower time. During either of these discussions, I let my group know that we will be experiencing these possible outcomes during the program. Then we might talk a bit more about how we might use these experiences throughout the program - "What can they teach us?" Then again, I ask the group if this is the best they can do? If they agree it's their best, we can recap the process and how it relates to the program ahead. Then move forward into the program.
23. If they choose to go for another attempt, I let them know we have time for one more try. Since we are still just getting started, I don't provide endless attempts - I want them to get into the program. This "last attempt" information tends to motive more problem-solving behaviors. At this stage of the process I change the way I suggest the Ready Check. I say, "Let me know when you are ready to start your final attempt." Putting it this way often leads them into the idea that they have space to talk about the activity. If someone in the group speaks up right away and says, "We ready!" I will actually ask everyone, "So, is everyone ready to begin?" This provides another opening for someone to step up and ask for time to talk.
24. I call out the Blind Shuffle here - reminding the group of the procedure. Again, being consistent, telling them the same information about the shuffle as before. I don't want to introduce the "concept" of change at this point in the program. Change behaviors might be part of the program later on, but this beginning is about an introduction to the program not behavior awareness or working on any of their other objectives. Once the group knows more about the structure of the process it will be easier for them to focus on the specific reasons for their participation in the program. (This is related to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - basic needs met before any complex learning can take place.)
25. After everyone has stopped moving and any final exchanges are made, I do add one more ready check. This opens up one more chance for the group to do any last moment problem solving. Be sure to let them know, they cannot move until "GO!" is called (part of the rules) - some players might consider solving a problem by moving before "GO!" is called. On another note, there have been times, for me, when groups have determined my movement is a "problem" to solve. Some have asked me to tell them where I'm going. Others have asked me to stay right where I'm standing so they know where I am. In either case I honor their request. This brings up a little discussion about another role I can take within the group. There are times when I can be a resource. As noted earlier - there are certain questions I might not answer, but in many cases I can be a resource. Interestingly enough, educators are often overlooked as resources in the learning process (don't get me started). So, when the group is determined and ready, I say, "GO!" and follow my same card return, move and look for my card procedure - unless I was asked to do something different. Once all the movement stops I stop the timer.
26. As before I ask how they did before I share their time. Since it was the final attempt I might spend a little more focused time here on the discussion points. I might also bring up some of the specific goals the group is here to work through and how they will fit into the activities ahead.
27. Before closing I'll do a little review of the program points - reiterating what the group can expect in the time ahead. Before answering any questions they have (the final point), I bring up the concept of challenge by choice, so, moving forward they have this at the forefront of their mind.
28. Finally, I remind the group that, "Questions are free." I make sure to spend some time answering any questions they have - if I can. I have been know to ask participants to, "Hold that thought - I'll be asking you to bring this up again soon." In this situation, I know we'll be covering the answers to certain questions in the near future - I'm waiting for a more "experiential" moment to provide new information.
For me, Name Card Return, as a program introduction, will take a total of 20 minutes! I know, we just went through a lot of reading for 20 minutes of programming. Consider how much activity thinking would be written out for an entire program!
Purposeful programming. This type of thinking is what purposeful programming is all about. Let me know your reactions to this process! Leave comments below.
All the best,
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
Last week I posted Part 1 (click or scroll down) of my first What? & Why? format of, what I've decided to call, for now, "activity thinking". In Part 1 I shared What? I do when presenting Name Card Return as a way to introduce a typical team building program to a group. This week in Part 2 I'm sharing the first half of the Why? behind the What? - next week I'll finish the process with the second half of the Why? [Note: I initially intended for this to be a two-part process, but the Why? part turned out to be so long I decided to share it in two pieces - for me it just seems too long for one sitting!]
To (quickly) recap. I'm trying out this format of sharing as a possible training application - providing more on the "purpose" behind my actions. Maybe this structure will catch on? Maybe this structure will help trainers and trainees? Maybe this structure is more work than needed? Maybe...? Help me out. Let me know how it works for you!
In Part 1 I numbered the steps of What? I do with Name Card Return. (Please know, this is one way I present the activity - there are other ways.) As I noted above, I use the steps shared in Part 1 for a particular purpose (in bold text above). Each numbered step below is the Why? (or purpose) of the same number in Part 1 - my reasoning/thinking behind the What? (Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions.)
Suggestion: You might want to open the Part 1 post in a separate tab so you can tab back-and-forth between Part 1 and 2 - a faster way to go from number to number.
1. As participants are starting to gather I can introduce myself quickly and ask them to do something for me - creating an opportunity for them to help me out. This is one way to start building a relationship with my group. Most people are use to making name tags so the task is not new to them - they have prior knowledge. It's a bit different since we are making name "cards" but it's not to much of a stretch. I also provide and example and a simple expectation - "your first name nice and BIG, like the example on the table." As the leader (or educator) of the program I can take a role of "expectation setter" for the group - often associated with leadership (as a group may see me initially). Participants still have a choice, and some exercise the choice, of not making their name nice and BIG. This might come up later when in the problem-solving mode of the activity. If the name was written with smaller letters it's a bit more challenging to see the name on the card when others are looking at/for it. If this happens I can point out that I did share an expectation early on that, as an educator, I thought might help them in the future. Part of my role, I tell them, (as a "teacher" educator) could be to offer up some information that might help during the program. (If you are reacting to me "helping" my group, keep in mind, as I always say, "there's more than one way to peel an orange!")
2. I like circles. As we know, this formation allows for everyone in the group to see everyone else. It's also the best configuration to share your voice - sound waves move around within a circle much better than any other shape. I also remind everyone to have their name card in hand. There will be people in the group who will want to know what to do with the name card when they get done making it.
3. My participants (no matter what age) will want to know what's going on. I use this time to share a VERY brief introduction and logistical information (e.g., where are the restrooms - ease some anxiety of the environment when possible) - no more than 90 seconds. If you dive into educational theory, "short boughts of instruction" are preferred over long boughts. It's all about keeping attention. Before I move on (to Step 4) I note that we will be doing our first activity in a moment, something that will help them understand, even more, what will be happening.
4. When I change the topic to "challenge by choice" (or whatever you use to inform your group about choice), I get another 90 seconds of my group's attention. I use the example of making the name cards as a reference to some choices - I ask my participants to hold up their cards and look around (this engages some physical activity). Even with the expectation of making their first name nice and BIG, they made choices - I look around at the cards they are holding and point out the different choices made (e.g., color of marker, style of lettering, the position of the name on the card, etc.). In my "choice" presentation, I do ask everyone in the group to "stay" with his/her group in some way. "One of my responsibilities," I tell them, "is for me to know where everyone is. If you stay with your group it's easier for me me to focus on the other parts of my job so you can have the best experience as possible. So, thanks for helping me with this." (Again, I asked for their "help" - continuing to build my relationship with most of the group - some might not be engaged by my invitation to help me out. Before moving on I do ask if anyone has any questions up to this point - and, of course, provide the answers I can.
5. Again, I change the topic, letting them know we are going to do our first challenge together. Back to educational theory, I'm providing a brief "anticipatory set" (information) about what's to come. In adventure education we often call this "front loading". I want my group to know that what we're doing next is like what we'll be doing together for the program. Now, I don't say much here, I want to get my group moving by this time. [Note: We're only about five minutes into the program.]
6. In this step I emphasize that there will be times when we have to do some "skill development" before moving into an activity - "we'll need some particular skills to increase our chances of success." "For some of you, the skills might be easy to pick up, for others the skills might not be easy - they might be a challenge to work through. That's part of why we're here - to work through the challenges we'll be facing together." I want my group to know that there will be some unknown ahead and we're here to support each other. Before I move into Step 7, I remind my group of the perfect circle expectation, that they cannot move until I say "perfect circle". This is often forgotten when additional information is provided after directions are given - it's just how the brain works.
7. I've moved to a location in the activity space that allows for the same size circle to be formed (I don't need to add a challenge here of adapting to a smaller space - not the purpose for the activity), THEN I say "perfect circle". Again, I don't say anything else. I stay quiet (maybe look at them a bit with "questioning" body language), so the group has the opportunity to figure out what's next. I want to start transferring the "power" of decision making over to the group. At first, most (if not all) groups will look to the main facilitator (the person who often talks first) to lead the way. In our team building programs, we want the group to lead the way - right? So, again, I want them to start problem solving together. Every time I do this, no matter what age, at least one person will take an initiative to try something.
8. Once the circle is formed (so far, for me, it always gets there), I ask if anyone has questions about forming the Perfect Circle. I ask at this point, and not during Step 6, because I want the questions to come from experience and not speculation, and I want them to get moving. Then I add the new rule to the Perfect Circle. As often as I can, I like to provide directions in increments. When I can first anchor, with some action, one (or two) direction(s) it's easier for the brain to take in new information. Note: I added the, "I can only call perfect circle" after one of my groups decided to "overuse" the term - you know what I'm talking about.
9. Then, another call to action. This second attempt is always better (time and process) than the first. At this point I ask them how they're doing. I let my group know I will be asking this question throughout the program. I want to know how things are going for them. I tell them, "this helps me to know where to take you next - I want to give you good challenges, not overdo it." (You noticed, I asked for their help again - building my relationship with them.) With a little "group" experience under their belt, questions are easier to "see". This is the time where I often tell my group, "Questions are free today. So, ask away. Now, it's not my role to solve 'problems' that come up, that's your job. But, don't be afraid to ask, clarification might lead to solving a problem." With this information I let my group know a little bit more about my role and "officially" let them know it's their job to problem solve - a point I then get to reiterate during the program.
10. One more call to action - usually pretty fast this time. This physical action anchors some of the information we just talked about and opens the brain back up for the new information in Step 11. Some of you might not agree with my choice to congratulate my group. However, I believe "validation" is a good thing - validation is another way to build relationship. I am specific. I say something like, "excellent perfect circle - everyone is where they need to be." Or, I might say, "WOW, that was fast! Good job. As we move forward, this might be important." Again, EdTheory will say specific feedback can be internalized better. Then, I let my group know we have one more thing to learn before we play the game. This adds to the anticipation about what's to come.
11. Here I teach the Blind Shuffle - the first part of Name Card Return. I call it "skill development" because I'm pretty sure everyone is about to do something they've never done before (unless they have been in a team building program with me before). So, "when learning something new we want to be nice to each other and ourselves - this might be very important to remember as we work together today." When I teach the Blind Shuffle I let my group know that "part of the challenge" is not to look at their cards before I say "GO!" I set the expectation and tell them how it fits into the activity. I also let them know that if they "accidentally" look at their card after they stop moving, simply exchange it with someone. This lets my group know (or starts to anyway), that sometimes we'll do something we're asked NOT to do. "It's important to do our best, if we can, but know that mistakes are part of learning. Most mistakes are not done on purpose. The idea here is to recognize our mistakes and do something about it" - in this case, I've given my group the opportunity to fix the mistake - exchange cards with someone near them. Then we can move on - enough said. I also provide some time to clarify the expectation of "stopping" after exchanging with five different people. This is confusing for some people - somethings I give an example. I walk around the group, exchange with five different people (while everyone is watching me) and then stop. (I know this might sound silly, but it happens every time. Some get it. Some don't.) And, I make sure they understand they can continue to exchange cards with others even if they have stopped moving. I tell them they are "helping" others finish up their exchanges. (This information is also difficult for some people to understand - they believe they have to stop everything they are doing).
12. When I see everyone has stopped moving I give them one more opportunity to exchange name cards with someone if they accidentally peeked at the name on their card. Again, my purpose is to start/continue building a safe learning environment. Now, of course some people will not "admit" they peeked because of prior "shamed" experiences. If anyone does make an exchange I'm sure to thank them for doing so. I don't make a big deal out of it (like, "thanks for having integrity" - this qualification takes you down another relationship path), I simply say, "Thank you."
13. In this Step I've shared the directions to Name Card Exchange. This activity is what I consider to be an introductory challenge. It has only two parts (or, you might say, rules) - return the card to the person it belongs to and form a perfect circle in relation to where I'm standing. I also tell my group that the process will be evaluated by time. I then share that during the program there may be this or other types of evaluation processes. Here I open the floor to questions about the expectations. At this time I don't bring up anything more about "evaluation" unless they do. And if they do, I'll ask them, "at this time, please hold that thought. I would love to bring this up again in a little bit." In most cases we can forego this conversation. If needed, open up talks. So, once the group understands they will be timed, as you can imagine, the energy begins to change. There's something on the line. For some it's exciting, for others, not so much. (All good things that can come up during the program.) Here again I'll say, "Questions are free. does anyone need help understanding what's about to happen?" It's also good to note here that I don't ask the group if they want some time to talk amongst themselves before this first attempt. I want to give them an experience, get them moving, give them something to talk about. When it seems like the time...
14. Once I say "GO!", I first start the time - DON"T FORGET THIS PART! (You know why!) I usually don't know many of the names of my group members yet so I use, what I consider to be, a helpful behavior. I start calling out the name of the person on my card. By doing this, maybe I'm role modeling a positive behavior and maybe I'm continuing to build my relationship with the group - now, that is if anyone notices. (Here's the counter point. What do they notice if I'm standing off to the side? I like to "play" at first and then slowly step back.) As soon as I can hand off the name card I have I move to a place outside the clump of players who have, more often than not, mobbed together in the center area of the original circle. At some point between handing off the card I had and stopping the time, someone has found me and returned my name card. Since I am part of the solution I choose to move to my Perfect Circle spot instead of looking for my name card. I don't say anything during the "return" and "circle up" action. I just wait for movement to stop - then I stop the time. (Sometimes movement might start up again when players realize something is not right. I simply restart my stopwatch and stop it again when movement stops.
Let's stop here. What did you take notice of? What jumped out at you? What did you agree with and what didn't you agree with? Do you have the Why? for your agreement and disagreement? What would you keep and what would you change about the process? Why?
Next week we'll finish up. See you then.
Keep me posted.
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
Dr. Chris Cavert is an internationally known author, speaker, and trainer in the area of adventure-based activity programming and its relation to community and pro-social behavior development.
This blog is a space for hands-on programable fun - energetic activities and ideas that can be used as a means to bring people together; activities and ideas we as educators can add to our social development curriculums.