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Communication and leadership workshop

A.  To start the workshop

Just two answers are needed from you :
Why did you choose this workshop ?
What do you understand by the words « communication » and leadership ?

drawing by Matt Groening (a Captain Beefheart fan)

B. Explanation of the process of the workshop.

We gonna try to make this workshop experiential too. Paul Watzlawick formulated 5 axioms about communication. I want to share 4 of them with you. But I think it could be possible you could find them by yourself. So, I would like to offer you some exercises, through which you could come to an awareness of what could be these axioms of communication.

C. First exercise

Try 5 minutes not to communicate.

Reflection : it is not possible not to communicate, we are always influencing. The behaviour of another person effects me in one way or another. The effect of our behaviour is not always what we intended.
Behaviour is always seen and interpreted. Even to keep silence has an influence. The people who talk have an influence on the people who keep silence. In other situations, the one who keeps silence, maybe makes a lot of noise. When I keep silence, I give others the order to speak. In a group, when everyone keeps silence, everyone would have the feeling that they have to speak. We are in a network, in a system. Everyone in the system is influencing the system. It’s like we are connected by little ropes. When one element of the system moves, the other elements of the system will follow moving. And by the movement of the others, the element who started the movement will be influenced too. There is always a connection. You never can act free of obligations.
People always try to tune their behaviour to some kind of same level. After a while, all behaviour is known, people gonna count on known behaviour. You have the ones who speak, you have the ones who keep silence. When behaviour changes, it will result in a kind of shock : what is happening ?
So, be aware that you as a leader, are always influencing the group, whatever you do.

Axiom 1 : it is not possible not to communicate, it is not possible not to influence.

D. Second exercise

Choose a partner and try to tell him/her during 5 minutes what you like about him/her without using non-verbal signs. Afterwards, try to do the same exercise during 5 minutes without using words.

Reflection : The emotional most important , far reaching forms of communication, influence are happening without words. We use non-verbal signs to show the other how it is between us. We use words to talk about the « how » of our relationship. Sometimes non-verbal signs are confusing us (when we receive a different message from the non-verbal signs than we do from the verbal signs) It is important to communicate congruently. We should be aware of cultural differences. For example, in Chinese, I am told, shaking your head up and down means no instead of yes, and shaking your head from left to right means yes instead of no. And you know the Eskimo’s nose ? He/she would be frightened when you put out your tongue to kiss him/her.
Even on the telephone we use these non-verbal signs : intonation, silence, groan and moan,…
So, as a leader, be aware of the what and how of your communication.

Axiom 2 : Communication is digital (verbal) and / or analogue (non-verbal)
You can communicate only non-verbal, but you can’t communicate only verbal. (There is always something between the lines)

E. 3rd exercise

Now, we gonna keep silence for 5 minutes. Stay on your chair and try to be aware of all your senses. What do you see ? What do you hear ? What do you smell ? What sensations do you get by your skin ?
Try also to get aware of what you are thinking, what you are feeling, what you are doing.
Afterwards, we split up in groups of 3 and try to exchange our experience.

Reflection : Everybody has different sensations, thoughts,…even when the circumstances are the same for everybody. You can’t blame someone to have another idea. It is proved scientific that our senses receive approx. 10.000 sensations in 1 second. So it is essential to make a selection. Which sensations are relevant ? It is a personal question, but often determined by culture. So, some information will be placed in front, other information in the background , all different from person to person. So, the holy truth does not exist, even a leader is human. You should be aware of the difference between facts and interpretations.

Axiom 3 : Everybody has his own truth.

F. 4th exercise :
(We didn’t do this exercise, because of shortage of time) 

Split in groups of 4 people, one will be mother/father, one son/daughter, the other two will be observers. The mother/father should say only the words « Close the door », the son/daughter should try to react out of awareness. Try to bring the message in different ways. The two observers should observe especially the non-verbal signs of the two players, but they can also try to notice their awareness. Afterwards, you get 5 minutes to reflect on this in little groups.

The Rose of Leary

This is a model, created by Leary, what shows the different main positions people can take in communication. The fact that someone takes position in one of the 6 « quadrants » of the circle, will have an effect on the other, who will take position. (Leary, TH., Interpersonal diagnosis of Personality. A functional theory and methodology for personality evaluation., New York, Ronald Press Company, 1957.)
For example, when I, as a trainer (leader) take position in « to hold », (I don’t say anything, I don’t interfere during the exercise, I keep my knowledge for myself,…) will have another effect on the group as if I would take position in « to give » ( I give a lot of information, I am very active, …) What position to take? I don’t know but you can tell, because it happened during the 2,5 days in Lithuania when we did the spiderweb, the electric wall, the hike,…
On the other hand, I was always aware of the fact that I was trainer, leader. It was my task to learn you something, to structure the programme, so I was always in the position of « to give ».
Therefore, it is important to make a difference between to levels. And so we come to the 4th axiom :

Axiom 4 : Every communication has a level of content and a level of relation(ship).

It means that, in every communication you show how you want to be treated and how you want to treat the others.

I think, that in terms of relationship, it is your duty as a leader to stay always in the position of «to give». In terms of content, you can switch positions, depending on what is needed to lead the group. Sometimes it might be good to hold, sometimes to give, sometimes to confront,…

(I gave here the example of the movie Good Will Hunting, where a therapist is helping a client. On the level of relationship he is always in the position of « to give », because he wants to help the client, but on the level of content he is using all positions of the circle. You should see this film ! ! ! !)
So, we should always be aware of the two roses who are involved at the same moment in every communication.

The rose of the level of relationship
(stay in « to give »)

The rose of the level of content
(switch to where you think or feel you have to switch, show how colourful you are)

(Written by Bart, influenced by Jacqueline and Kristina)


Keep the Roof on fire!