Trainers often share that one of the greatest fears of encouraging dialogue is maintaining focus on the content being explored. Trainers often ask, “What if it goes off-track? What if they start to complain about things I can’t do anything about?”
The only way we can tap into the learner’s commitment to the content is to welcome the dialogue. The dialogue will tell you what the learners are committed to. In Seven Languages for Transformation: How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work, authors Kegan and Lahey share, “… people only complain about something because they are committed to the value or importance of something else.” (Kegan and Lahey, 2001, p. 30). When a learners says he is upset about one thing, what he is really telling you is that he is committed to something else. It’s your job to figure out what that is. Rather than thinking about how you address the complaint, focus on the bigger message being delivered. The opposite of what we complain about is what we want. With each complaint, the learner is giving up the key to engagement—what it is he truly wants to create.
Source: Engage, The Trainer’s Guide to Learning Styles (Wiley 2012)
This exercise encourages learners to explore the differences in right and left-mode thinking. This is a great kick-off to planning, teaming or creative thinking sessions. You can also use this exercise in conjunction with the 4MAT Hemispheric Mode Indicator® to create an interactive and powerful team experience around the different ways we approach thinking and problem solving. You’ll find more of these types of activities in Engage, The Trainer’s Guide to Learning Styles.
CIRCLES AND LINES FACILITATION INSTRUCTIONS
|Focus: Group reflection exercise which explores the differences in the way we view the world.
• Lengths of string long enough for members or each table group to hold the string simultaneously
- Share the facilitator script below.
- Ask participants to individually reflect on an example of when they have viewed the world as a “circle” and when they have viewed the world as a “line.”
- Give each table group a length of string.
- Ask learners to hold the string in a line, with each member touching the string. Invite learners to share their example of thinking from the perspective that “life is a line.”
- Ask learners to hold the string in a circle, with each member touching the string. Invite learners to share their example of thinking from the perspective that “life is a circle.”
- Ask each group to develop a list of the characteristics of both ways of viewing the world to present to the larger group.
“Richard Nisbett is a social psychologist at the University of Michigan who leads research studying how humans think about the world. In his book, The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently…and Why, Nisbett shares a story of a conversation with his student from China. The student told him ‘You know, the difference between you and me is that I think the world is a circle, and you think it’s a line’ (Nisbett, 2003, p. xiii). I invite you to reflect on the difference between circle and line thinking. Reflect on an experience which illustrates when you have approached a situation from a ‘circle’ point of view and a ‘line’ point of view.” Additional facilitator notes: In his book, Nisbett shares how the student elaborated on the differences between these two ways of viewing the world (Nisbett, 2003, p. xiii):
The World Is a Circle
- Constant change
- Things always moving back to some prior state
- Paying attention to many things
- Information comes from many sources
- You can’t understand the part without understanding the whole
The World Is a Line
- Simpler world view
- Focus on objects or people versus the larger view
- Knowing the rules will help you control the outcomes
- Some sources of information are more valuable than others
- Believe understanding the parts will lead to an understanding of the whole