I'm preparing to do a workshop for college students. The workshop focuses on developing the ability to understand perspectives other than your own or to frame an issue from the perspective of another person. It also looks at how people justify problems, explain them away, deny them, or re-define them as something else.

This will  be a group of 60 - 80 -- already fairly comfortable with one another, since they meet regularly and work together.

I'm primarily looking for a large-group ice breaker that could be used to introduce this concept, but any suggestions will be appreciated.




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HI Susan,

An exercise I find really useful when working with groups around perspective in conflict is called F.I or Head in Hands, which makes the distinction between the facts of a given situation and our interpretations or stories that we make up about it.

I ask a volunteer (or co-facilitator) to sit with their head in the hands in the circle with no warning to the rest of the group. Gradually the group notices the person and I ask 'What's happening? What's going on?' - the language is important here. I am not (yet) asking what do you see but rather encouraging stories. Why is he/she sitting like that? I start to scribe the  'stories' eg she's been dumped by her boyfriend, she's got a headache, she's sleeping etc

Then, after I have heard quite a few stories I ask the group - 'What do you SEE?' Often the same stuff comes out ie she's depressed etc which I challenge, "can you actually see that she's depressed?' Eventually the group will identify things that they can see eg her clothes, the position of her body, colours she's wearing. I scribe these in another colour. I ask them what the difference is between the two lots of information. Depending on the level of the group they may need support/hints. We establish that what we can see are FACTS ie we can't argue with them and the other stuff is our INTERPRETATIONS, the stories we make up about a given situation. I ask them where our stories come from (past experience, culture etc) group and also where do we normally operate from in conflict? What if we operated from facts about a situation as opposed to our interpretations about it, how would that affect our decisions and the outcomes?

I find this lands well with young people and can be really powerful in terms of acknowledging that my story may be different from someone elses and that ultimately, it is often just a story!

Hope this is a clear and you find it useful. Do let me know if you have any questions.

Good luck with the delivery!


I like this a lot! Thank you, Katherine.


A very nice high energy activity is the three dimensional debate.

Take a roll of toilet paper and unroll it along a straight line across from corner to corner of the room. Then do the same for the other two corners so you have a huge cross.

One of the two lines is then labelled at each end: strongly agree and trongly disagree.
The second line is labelled at each end is labelled: mildly agree and mildly disagree.

Put some controversial statements on pieces of paper in a hat. They can be generic such as: Car drivers should pay more income tax than bicyclists, or There is no such thing as originality

Or you could have organisation-specific statements if the group is ready for that. The key thing is to have statements that are likely to split the room in terms of opinion. We want a good debate!

Now, someone pulls a statement out of the hat and reads it aloud.

People then locate themselves physically in the room, on the grid to show where they stand on the issue. The middle can represent undecided.

You then invite people to speak out on why they are standing where they are in relation to the statement and people are invited to move as they feel influenced by what others are saying.

Encourage people to be flexible and prepared to move. Though people also fix very quickly and become immovable! Run this for 10 minutes or so then move on to a new statement. Start with less controversial statements so people get the idea of how to works.

It is a very physical way of showing different standpoints and perspectives among a large group.

And to explore the shoes of another's perspective. At some point during the debate you shout swap! And everyone has to step into the opposite position to where they are standing and then role play arguing from that view point. Some find it easier than others. Then you can also call "Revert!" which allows them to go back to there original position. You can also GDP this with just two people who might be talking at the time from two very opposing viewpoints.

This sounds similar to the Thiagi game SHOUTING MATCH http://www.thiagi.com/game-shoutingmatch.html

There are several variations for class size and topic listed at the bottom, but having students reverse their position and argue the other side is the general modification that will turn this game into some thing that might help with your objectives.

Thank you. These are helpful.

Paul, I like how your game takes a sociodrama "spectogram" exercise and instead of having people place themselves along one line, puts them into the 4 corners of the room so they can talk to each other.

To give slightly more background, these students are in a Service Learning program (applying their studies practically in the community). Along with dealing with conflict within their organization/group, they are needing to be able to see things from the perspective of someone outside their organization.

For instance, someone living in poverty might frame their problem very differently from the organization helping them. Or a perpetrator of domestic violence, a victim, a child in the home, and the agency working with them might all 4 describe the problem very differently-- might all be justifying their behavior from their own perspective. Also, a person's perspective may change over time.

I plan to do some of what you suggested, Rich -- have them speak from the perspective of another person. I like your game for a large group. And I think it could be adapted well to look at cultural misconceptions about social issues.



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