The below post is now posted on Design with Dialogue‘s website.
I am fascinated by the idea of space – how we relate to changing spaces, how its creation is both bounded by its physical structure and our mental projections, and how it inevitably shapes our behaviour.
Creating synergy within a group is also fundamentally related to the atmosphere of the space we inhibit. Businesses, organizations, and party hosts are always on the hunt for best practices in designing group dynamics, because it brings both monetary and social value to all parties involved. In this post, we will explore ideas of presence and movement to further dialogue from only words, and the immense power that they bring to groups in building trust and synergy. I was at an event last week exploring Social Presence Theatre with Toronto-based Design with Dialogue (DwD), a monthly event to co-educate community design practices.
July’s DwD featured Patricia Kambitsch from Playthink and Heidi Madsen from Ohio AIDS Coalition (both of them wear many hats, as all creative people do). Our group was lucky enough to also have had the guidance of Penny Williamson from Centre for Courage & Renewal and John Hopkins University. Throughout the night, we were guided along a series of activities that incrementally built on one another – and we were encouraged to use minimal words and more gestures and movement to convey how we envision our future to look like. We all made our own small gesture to convey our vision and shared it first with our partner and then to the entire group, and this marked the beginning of utilizing presence, awareness, and body language as powerful tools of communication.
They say 80% of what is communicated is nonverbal, but we are so hyper-aware of our bodies (the very reason why the Dove campaign is so successful) that I wonder… what are we communicating with our bodies?
During our reflection portion of the workshop, Peter Jones – one of the co-organizers of DwD – said that this kind of activity can be used in businesses to resolve conflict or tense situations. Because words are now only the ornaments of the dialogue, and gestures and body language are used as the primary communication tools, this seems to limit “you did this, I did this” kind of dialogue, and more of “I feel this” kind of discussion.
Similar to Body Mapping, the focus of movement and expression reveals something much different than words alone – and many times it gives participants a safer environment to talk about subjects that may be stigmatized or sensitive.
The workshop gave me the opportunity to explore our world through action and expression, to relate to others with more than words, and to be aware of the possibility of the human experience beyond the analytical. My friend, a dancer, once told me that he is trying to be more aware of what his body is telling him and how his body reacts to the outside world. It is interesting that when you hold the intention to do so, you become more present with the people you are relating to – and quite frankly, in an age of constant information and pieces of hardware beeping at us for attention, this sort of presence and expression is what many people are craving for within their relationships and conversations.