Most of us have faced the experience of struggling for what to say to someone when they are at the end of their life. It's awkward for everyone. In this short video I share a great solution I found that's simple, easy, and meaningful for everyone involved.
A new game! This past weekend I was leading a workshop at the Creative Problem Solving Institute in Buffalo, NY and I created a new game during a workshop. The workshop was at the end of the 5-day-long conference, and the intention was for it to help people process their experience and set up goals & action steps for what comes next. This game emerged at the end of a space walk exercise.
As people were walking around the room, I invited them to imagine there were memories from the past 5 days on various objects in the room. "Walk around the room and notice that there are memories of yours on various objects in the room. When you notice one, reach out and collect it. Gather the memory in your hands. Notice how it feels. Allow your hands to hold it, feeling it's weight, shape, color, texture... Keep moving around the room, looking for more memories. When you find one, pick it up and tuck it in with the other ones you've collected. Remember to look up." ETC
Creating the Tableau
Then after people had gathered up their memories (2-3 minutes), I instructed them to pair up with another person and have a table between them (you could do this with a real or imagined surface). One at a time, in silence, they each took turns placing their memories on the surface, creating a little diorama of memories. They didn't discuss the memories. They exercised creativity in where to place them in the scene, their size and relation to the scene.
In the Debrief
After the exercise people shared that they enjoyed the process of discovering their memories, and especially noted the significance of deciding which memories to keep, and which to leave behind.
This is the first time I've played this game, and I'm curious what other variations are out there of similar activities.
My husband and I have a rule we've used for several years to help us keep the peace and frame our important conversations. It's come up a few times recently, so I thought I'd share it.
Here's a scenario...
You turn your head and notice your partner has tracked mud in the house. AGAIN. OMG how many times do you have to say something? Who is the person who cleans it up?!? Not him! How can he be so inconsiderate! And it's not just this; it's all the stuff he leaves around in the morning like he is the only one who is working here. You feel invisible, unvalued, and disrespected.
What do you do?
Well you probably know what your first instinct says! Now seems like the PERFECT time to bring up not only the mud but everything that is REALLY the issue here. And if you're anything like me, you'll be really motivated to make your point RIGHT NOW.
This is where the 24 hour rule comes in. The 24 hour rule separates what is URGENT from what is IMPORTANT.
The rule is this: In the moment you can only bring up the immediate issue (ie. dealing with the mud on the floor this morning). You may not bring up any broader issues related to what just happened. For example repeated patterns, historical references, your feelings beyond this incident, or projections about the future. For all other conversations, you need to wait 24 hours.
The short version is that you can't use the immediate URGENT issue to be the bridge to a broader IMPORTANT conversation.
The logic of this is that for an important conversation about patterns, deeper feelings, and/or requests to change behaviors you want both people in as calm, connected, and non-triggered state as possible. If it is important, you want to approach it as a team. You want the best possible conditions for success (certainly not one person triggered, the other defensive, and probably both people frustrated and wanting to get out the door to work!)
Another side effect of separating URGENT from IMPORTANT is that some of the issues that seemed so important in the moment will turn out to not feel so important 24 hours later. Whadayaknow. ;)
And a final caveat we've added... If 24 hours pass and you forget to bring up the issue until the next time you're triggered in the moment, then you have to wait 24 hours again! (pro tip: make a list!!)
Here's a fun improv-based game I developed that you can use to make a decision when there are 2 options and you're going back and forth and unable to decide how to proceed. This game often reveals which decision is preferable, as well as insights about your motives and desires.
The game consists of 4 short conversations in succession. You'll need a conversation partner and a timer. Each conversation is 2 minutes long and follows from a prompt. Each conversation is a quick back-and-forth between the partners, and once it is over you'll move immediately to the next conversation. The time for thinking about what was said will come at the end of the 8 minutes.
First, define the 2 options you are considering and write them as declarations in the present tense. For example:
Option 1: I will take the podcasting workshop.
Option 2: I will not not take the podcasting workshop.
Round 1 -- Yes, BUT to Option 1
Begin by declaring to your partner that you have made a decision to do option 1. For example "Beth, I've decided, I'm going to take the podcasting workshop." Your partner (Beth in this example) will then say "Yes, but..." and give a logical objection. You will respond with Yes, but... and retort that objection. Go back and forth until the 2 minutes runs out.
You: Beth, I've decided I am going to take the podcasting workshop.
Beth: Yes, but it costs a lot of money!
You: Yes, but this is important to me, and I've got some money saved.
Beth: Yes, but you've started classes before and never finished them.
You: Yes, but...
Round 2 -- Yes, BUT to Option 2
Repeat the Yes, but conversation with Option 2.
You: "Beth, I've decided, I'm not going to take the podcasting workshop
Beth: Yes, but you've been saying you're going to do a podcast and taking a workshop is a good idea!
You: Yes, but what I really need to do is just start doing it, not take another workshop.
Beth: Yes, but if you take a workshop you'll have support for when you run into issues.
You: Yes, but ...
Round 3 -- Yes, AND to Option 1
Return to Option 1. You'll start the conversation in the same way, stating the decision. However this time you'll have a conversation using Yes, and as sentence prompts. The yes is stated with enthusiasm and the and adds more ideas. The energy of this conversation is enthusiastic, creative, and affirmative. Anything the other person says is brilliant and your job is to make it even better with your next Yes, and sentence.
You: Beth, I've decided I am going to take the podcasting workshop.
Beth: Yes, and that is going to set you up for success!
You: Yes, and I feel really good about seeking support before I start a new venture.
Beth: Yes, and I can tell you really care about this and you're taking yourself seriously.
You: Yes, and...
Round 4 -- Yes, AND to Option 2
Now finish the exercise with a Yes, and conversation starting with Option 2.
You: Beth, I've decided that I am not going to take the podcasting workshop.
Beth: Yes, and then you can focus your energy on just getting your message out now.
You: Yes, and I have so much to say!
Beth: Yes, and by saying it, you're going to meet your tribe & find the people who will work with you!
You: Yes, and...
After completing the 4 dialogues, take some time to discuss what you noticed. What conversation was the easiest for you to have? Which one flowed? Which one had the most energy (your partner may have an opinion on this too!)? What surprised you? Which conversation was the more challenging for you? What concerns came up in the process? What did you learn?
Continue the conversation with your partner. What do you want to do with the information you have now? If you know what decision you want to make, what actions would you like to take now? What can you do to support yourself in this decision? Are there any concerns left unaddressed? How would you like to address them?
Source & Inspiration
This game is an adaptation of a popular applied improv game "Picnic" where players attempt to plan a picnic using some of these same prompts (Yes, but and Yes, and). Improv has a tendency to reveal what underlies your thinking, because you must come up with responses quickly.