The One with a Communication Workshop

Today was the first day of a two-day communication and collaboration workshop we are doing as a team.

The first exercise was related to our problem of having long, fruitless discussions that leave everyone very unsatisfied and drained. We had to get into the feeling we have in one of those nightmare meeting situations and then choose a posture that represents how we are feeling. The coaches then went around and asked us why we chose that posture, what we are feeling mentally and physically and if there are any visuals, sounds, tastes or smells connected to that situation. After that we had to imagine ourselves in a dream meeting situation, so the best possible meeting and choose a posture for this feeling, again with talking about our choices and feelings.

Afterwards we talked about how we felt in these situations and if we had noticed anything interesting. What I found interesting was that a lot of us had negative associations with the room we conduct most of our meetings in. It’s dark, not very well ventilated and it has no real windows. And we chose very different postures for both exercises and then talked about how these different postures may relate to how we are feeling, but also how we like to sit or not sit in meeting situations. Some of us don’t like sitting and love standing next to a whiteboard, some of us prefer having a table in front of them. So it might be difficult to find a room situation that works well for all of us.

The coaches also suggested that we pay attention to our coworkers’ postures in the future and if we see something that is closely related to our ‘nightmare’ posture but I don’t think that would work for most of us. But they also suggested actually talking about any disturbance/nuisance we perceive from others or feel for ourselves, to let the others know that we might have a difficult time or day. This is something that makes more sense to me.

The next exercise was a ‘perception square’ (Wahrnehmungsquadrat). This square contains observing, thinking, feeling and wishing. In pairs, we talked about some situation that was in our minds and tried to find the right quadrant for a statement. This was done by moving along an actual square that was drawn on the ground. We realised that very little of what we talked about was actually an observation and most of it was either an interpretation or assumption or a feeling or wish that we had in these situations. And we realised that it is very difficult to put our statements into the correct quadrant even though that was the actual task. So it is obviously even more difficult to correctly interpret our own statements in a normal discussion. A suggestion was to practise this exercise regularly with small topics so that it gets easier to remember this in a difficult discussion. This ties in to what I have learned about stress management exercises.

We also talked about patterns and how they can be good or bad and where they come from and used this in our last exercise to brainstorm some ‘well-worn paths’ (Trampelpfade) that we see in our team. Interestingly, we only chose to write down negative patterns that we perceive in our team, no positive ones, although the exercise didn’t tell us to do that. We then put our individual patterns on the ground and connected them with paths. So far, there is now a negative-pattern path on the floor our our meeting room but we haven’t done anything further with it.

All in all it was an interesting day with a little bit of learning new things and tools and lots of things that are probably good to hear again every once in a while. I’m interested in trying out the square exercise and see if that helps us understand each other better. But so far, there hasn’t been anything that really clicked and makes me think that this will help us solve our biggest problem of differing mindsets that we cannot consolidate. But maybe tomorrow will bring some more enlightenment.