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Understanding Communication
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  The Pfeiffer Library Volume 4, 2nd Edition. Copyright ©1998 Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer     1  BALL GAME: CONTROLLING ANDINFLUENCING COMMUNICATION Goals   To explore the dynamics of assuming leadership in a group.  To increase awareness of the power held by the member of a group who isspeaking at any given time.  To diagnose communication patterns in a group. Group Size  Six to twelve participants. Several subgroups may be directed simultaneously. Time Required  Approximately thirty minutes. Materials  A ball or other convenient object for each group. Process   1.The facilitator explains that in the following discussion session, the manner inwhich the participants will interact will be limited. He or she tells them thatpossession of the ball (or other object) that he or she is holding will determinewho may speak. The facilitator further explains that the participant with the ballmust keep it until someone signals verbally that they wish to have it. Theindividual holding the ball may refuse to give it to a member who requests it. 2.If process observers are to be used, they are selected and briefed. 3.The facilitator announces a topic for the group to discuss, based upon the goalsand experiences of the group. It is important to ensure that significant interactionwill be generated. (Examples: silent members, expressing negative feedback,barriers to doing one’s job, reactions to the training session so far.) 4.The facilitator hands the ball to a participant, indicating that the discussionperiod is to begin. 5.After fifteen minutes have passed, the facilitator indicates that the discussion isover.  The Pfeiffer Library Volume 4, 2nd Edition. Copyright ©1998 Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer  2   6.The group processes the experience in terms of the power phenomena thatemerge in reference to the holder of the ball, frustrations involved in attemptingto gain or hold this power, and the patterns of communication that emerge duringthis experience. 7.If process observers have been used, the facilitator asks them to providefeedback for the group. Variations   The facilitator may wish to introduce a power play (or illustrate the lack of it) inthe beginning by placing the ball in the center of the group rather than with anindividual.  Participants can be given pencils and paper and be instructed to make notes tothemselves on the announced topic prior to the discussion period. (This affordsthem the opportunity to crystallize their points of view and heightensparticipation.) The facilitator may direct that each participant must get the balloften enough to get all of his or her points into the discussion.  Two balls can be used, so that paired interaction is possible. Alternatively, thefacilitator may invite participants to toss the ball back and forth in confronting eachother. (This process can result in more effective listening.)  A ball of string is passed around and unwound as the experience progresses,resulting in a physical sociogram or interactiongram. Submitted by Ronald D. Jorgenson.  The Pfeiffer Library Volume 4, 2nd Edition. Copyright ©1998 Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer     3  HELPING RELATIONSHIPS:VERBAL AND NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION Goals   To demonstrate the effects of posturing and eye contact on helping relationships.  To focus group members’ attention on the impact of their nonverbal behaviors onother individuals.  To teach basic nonverbal listening and attending skills. Group Size  No more than twenty participants. Time Required  Approximately thirty minutes. Physical Setting  Movable chairs and open space. Process   1.The facilitator introduces the experience by discussing the verbal and nonverbalaspects of communication, pointing out that although individuals seem to relyprimarily on verbal cues in their interactions, nonverbal cues (gestures, posture,tone of voice, etc.) are also important in communication. To reinforce this point,the facilitator demonstrates how nonverbal cues can either contradict or confirma verbal message. To demonstrate contradiction, he or she approaches a groupmember and says, “I like you,” with his voice raised in anger and his handsclenched into fists. To demonstrate confirmation, he approaches the groupmember and says, “I like you,” in a warm manner, followed by a hug. 2.The facilitator announces that the activity will consist of forming pairs andexploring the effects of different seating arrangements. The members of each pairare told to sit in different positions; as they assume each position they are toremain silent and be aware of the effect of that seating arrangement. 3.Participants form pairs, and the facilitator directs them to sit back to back without talking. After the pairs have been sitting in this position for about aminute, the facilitator directs them to sit side by side. After another minute, thepairs are instructed to sit face to face.  The Pfeiffer Library Volume 4, 2nd Edition. Copyright ©1998 Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer  4   4.After another minute, each pair discusses its reactions to the activity. Thefacilitator elicits observations about the experience from the entire group. 5.The pairs are seated face to face and silently assume three body postures (oneminute each): slouched, straight, and leaning forward. 6.Each pair then discusses its reactions to the preceding round. The facilitatorelicits observations about the experience from the entire group. 7.One partner assumes the role of helpee; the other partner assumes the role of helper. 8.While seated face to face, the pairs silently experience three different eye-contact situations (one minute each):  The helper attempts to look the helpee in the eye while the helpee looks downor away.  The helpee attempts to look the helper in the eye while the helper looks downor away.  The helper and the helpee have direct eye-to-eye contact. 9.Step 6 is repeated.10.After processing the eye-contact experience, the facilitator leads a discussion of the participants’ overall reactions to the sequence of activities. The discussion isfocused on the integration and application of this learning. Variations   Participants can be permitted to talk at any time during the experience. The talkingmay include counseling on “real” problems.  In the face-to-face situation participants can be directed to move their chairs to adistance that is most comfortable for them.  The process can be combined with a “group-on-group” design. One pair is seatedin the center of the group and goes through the activity sequence. The other groupmembers are instructed to observe the impact of the different positionings and toreport their observations.  Different pairs can be formed for each round of the activity. REFERENCES  Danish, S.J., & Haner, A.L. (1973).  Helping skills: A basic training program.  New York: Behavioral Publications.Ivey, A.E. (1971).  Microcounseling: Innovations in interviewing training.  Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas. Submitted by Clarke G. Carney.
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