Each small team will move to a separate space to discuss and agree on a common non-verbal, physical gesture which reflects a prescribed theme, eg community.
After a few minutes, each team returns to the common space.
When ready, each team performs their gestures simultaneously, for approx 5 to 10 seconds, while observing the gestures of all other groups.
This concludes the first round.
Announce the ultimate goal is for all teams to achieve consensus in as few rounds as possible, whereby every team eventually performs an identical gesture.
No communication is permitted between teams at any time between or during the rounds.
Allow several minutes for discussion in small teams (in secluded areas) between rounds.
Conclude the activity when all teams have adopted the same gesture, or eight rounds have been played.
Video Transcript for Negotiation
presented by Larry Childs
We’re having a great morning and that last one offered us a chance to kind of connect and problem solve together. Do a little bit of negotiation, and our next activity is going to sort of pick up on that theme.
It involves a chance to, you know, communicate with each other, and is an activity that’s especially about kind of coming to agreement around a common theme. Letting go sometimes even having some loyalty to your group.
So I think we’re going to stay in those very same groups, and your task is this.
Your first task in that, in that some vowel-like group that you had there your task is to agree upon some kind of a movement or a gesture, right, along with a sound.
Alright, you are going to make, create, a gesture and a sound, and in this case given that it’s a day around PA Connect I want that gesture to be somehow representative of this idea of PA Connect. Sort of the whole notion of internet connectivity. Okay? So you’re going to create a gesture and a sound.
We’re working on a little bit of branding here so you’re going to be helping us out. Is that clear about the assignment?
So you’re going to come up with that, and when I give the, give the indication then you’re going to come back into what will be effectively a square. So each, each group will create a line, and will create a square. So each group has one line on the square.
You’ve got about one minute to develop this. Now, sort of a secretive thing. So get together, figure it out, rehearse it a little bit, and then come back.
Excellent, great. So at this point what we’re going to do is presentations. Each group is going to offer their gesture and their sound while the others are witnessing, and we’ll give a little appreciation along the way with each presentation.
Okay? So let’s first off a group is ready. I think this group was ready first so why don’t you guys go right here.
(Do you guys want to sit.)
(I don’t want to knock you over. So spread out. You there. There we go. Ready?)
(First group does their gesture and sound as part of Negotiation)
(Letter E, letter E.)
Good. Ah, got the letter E going there.
Good, next group right over here.
(Next group does their gesture and sound as part of Negotiation)
Alright, give them a little appreciation.
Third group, you ready?
(Yup.One, two, three. On three. Are you ready?)
(Third group does their gesture and sound as part of Negotiation)
(We got a P and an A.)
Good, and our fourth group right here.
(Fourth group does their gesture and sound as part of Negotiation)
Alright. Okay, good.
So what we’ve done is we have identified four gestures with sound with each group, and our challenge is to arrive to kind of come with a agreement, a consensus, that we’re going to choose one of the four.
And the way choice process goes is that you need to go back in a moment into your huddle and decide whether your going to stay kind of connected and loyal to your own sound, whether you’re going to try to you know make others believe that yours is the one that everyone is going to agree to, or if you’re going to give up and feel that one of the other ones is better.
So we want to have the best gesture and sound, and to kind of come to agreement on that. However, there’s no communication across the groups. Alright, no explicit communication. You just need to decide in your group which it’s going to be.
(There’s so many good ideas.)
(Groups get together to discuss.)
You’re practicing in your mind. Right? You’re feeling really ready? Excellent.
(We’re going on just the first try.)
Absolutely, you know it’s the first try, and if we’re all in tuned with the same, same gesture and sound we’ll move on. If not you’re going back into your huddles. Okay everybody ready? One, two, three!
(Groups do their favourite gesture and sound.)
Okay, so we had these two, these two had the same. Not quite. Alright, so I need you to go back into your huddle and recalibrate. Are you staying with your decision or are you changing?
Excellent, let’s give this another try. Everybody ready?
Are you clear in your mind what you’re doing? One, two, three!
(Groups do their favourite gesture and sound as part of second round of Negotiation)
(I have a question.)
Great, so yes?
(Is this something we could do like with a company as a theme for the day to have around their sort of, yeah their mission, how they want to identify themselves for the day? Have you done that?)
Good yeah, so Negotiation Square is to have a gesture and a movement, and then the idea would be to have some kind of symbol or meaning around that so that it’s not just an idea in their head, but they’re creating a kind of common symbol.
So that could work well, and it’s a great activity for both kind of keeping loyalty or some identity to something you’ve created as well as letting go.
I think it’s especially good around kind of letting go and joining in with somebody else’s idea.
How To Play Narrative
Split your group into three or four roughly even-numbered smaller groups.
To set the scene, explain that each group will meet in a discrete corner (or break-out room,) to secretly discuss and create a non-verbal, physical gesture which they will soon reveal to all other groups. For example, one group may choose to stick out their tongues while waving their hands above their heads.
After a few minutes, invite each group to return to the common space and stand in a position where every other group can see them. On “GO” ask every person to simultaneously demonstrate their group’s gesture for everyone else to see, at the same time observing all the other gestures.
Once the giggles die down, explain now that the goal of this activity is to achieve consensus among all of the groups, whereby each small group eventually chooses to demonstrate an identical gesture within the fewest possible rounds, ie shortest time frame.
This common gesture may be an ‘unspoken’ choice among all groups to adopt one of the initial designs, a derivative of them all, or something completely new. Who knows?
When everyone is clear on the goal, return the groups to their secret spaces to discuss their gesture of choice for the next round.
Most importantly, the groups are not permitted to communicate (verbally or otherwise) with the other groups at any time throughout the ‘silent negotiation’ process.
Limit the number of rounds to eight at the most, by which time, if a consensus has not been achieved, you will have managed to stimulate lots of discussion about decision-making, loyalty, letting go, compromise, communication and goal-setting.
As a very dynamic exercise, prepare for a substantive debrief. Take a look at the questions in the Reflection Tips tab for some starting points.
Practical Leadership Tips
This is a spectacular group initiative, but beware – it is extremely dynamic, and may raise many issues pertinent to the life of your group. This should not stop you from using it, just be prepared.
In my experience, this exercise brings up many issues about compromise and letting go – two extremely pertinent issues for any group of people. Your debrief should aim to connect these issues to the life of your group, or more generally, how these issues manifest in our society, eg inter-relationships between people of different faiths, races, countries, economic status, codes of football, etc.
Resist the temptation to create more than five groups, otherwise, consensus may be very difficult to achieve with so many variables to accommodate.
To maintain the integrity of this exercise, you must ensure that the groups do not communicate among themselves between rounds. The only forms of communication should be limited to those moments when you invite the groups to share the latest version of their particular gestures.
Ultimately, this exercise is not necessarily about achieving consensus. There is often more value in exploring how the groups managed their differences, and how they did or did not come to a conclusion.
Ideally, you should aim to use a space that provides opportunities for break-out rooms or separate spaces for each of the groups to meet in isolation. If this is not possible, it is almost impossible to ask people not to look at other groups in the corners of a common space they may be sharing.
You could integrate Negotiation as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to understand the perspectives of and empathise with others including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures.
Specifically, this activity offers ample opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
The complexities of this dynamic group initiative will challenge all group members to interact and engage with each other in a manner that would necessarily speak to the benefits of having developed a set of supportive and healthy behavioural norms in advance. Or, if not, you could focus on any less-than-desired interactions or outcomes to explore what sorts of behaviours your group would prefer to see and commit to in the future.
Success is absolutely tied to your group’s goal-setting process and its ability to adapt and accommodate the diverse thoughts and values of its members. For example, if the goal of this exercise is not clear or not common, it will be very difficult for your group to achieve consensus. Or, if one or more of the smaller teams refuse to adapt to the expressed needs or desires of the other teams, it will be very difficult to successfully achieve a consensual result.
To this end, consider framing this exercise as an opportunity for your group to set a very clear goal that requires all of its members to buy into the result. Unless and until all members agree to one common goal, you may need to facilitate a conversation in which your group can discuss what they can all agree on.
As so little verbal communication is permitted between each of the small teams, exercising a range of emotional competencies will be critical to the success of this consensus-making exercise. For example, you could explore your group’s ability to cope with frustration, recognise and manage their emotions and of course, understand others’ emotions and perspectives. Refer to the Social-Emotional Learning tab for more.
Meaningful Gestures: Announce that the gestures must reflect something related or meaningful to your group or program goals, such as ‘teamwork,’ ‘community,’ ‘world peace’ or some other nebulous theme.
Negotiation Round: At the end of round three, permit one representative from each small team to meet in a neutral spot for two minutes to discuss anything they choose. Typically, the discussion will fall somewhere in the spectrum between ‘do-it-our-way-because-it’s-better’ and ‘let’s-work-together.’ Note, an agreement among these folks does not necessarily beat a path to consensus.
Managing Change: Take a look at Circle Clap, Change Up and Memory Card Game to explore three challenging group initiatives that often stimulate robust negotiations about change and letting go.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
Use breakout rooms to divide your group into smaller teams of 3 to 10 people. Give each team 2 minutes to choose one uniform visual gesture. Simultaneously, return everyone to the large room and on the count of three, ask everyone to briefly demonstrate their gesture. Allow time for everyone to view all of the different types of gestures, and then quickly return people back to their same breakout rooms for round two. The game continues in and out of breakout rooms until the whole group achieves consensus.
Frame your experience, then ask every person to leave their screen for 30 seconds and grab one item which matches or reflects the context of your framing. For example, you could ask each person to grab something that reflects the emotional state of your group, or reflects the development of your group, or something that is fun, etc. Be sure to alert people not to reveal their items when they return to their screens. When ready, ask everyone to show their item at the same time AND not say anything. Keep it silent. Then, challenge your group to repeat this task – for as many rounds as necessary – until everyone returns with a similar item.
As above, but ask everyone to go to the kitchen (or some other space that would be common for every person attending your meeting) and grab any one item, eg a saucepan. When ready reveal the items asking each person to briefly explain why they grabbed this particular item. Then, challenge your group to play as many rounds as necessary (with a brief discussion between each round if you choose) until everyone returns with the same object, eg spatula, fork, etc.
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Useful Framing Ideas
One of the hardest things to do in life is to change. Yet, as we all know, there is nothing more constant than change. Change is a fact of life, but there are some changes which are harder to adapt to than others. Changing one’s morning breakfast cereal would not be as difficult as changing one’s belief about a particular topic. Our next exercise explores the interplay between groups of people who start from divergent positions but aim to achieve consensus…
Have you ever found it difficult to get your way, especially when you believed your way was better than someone else’s way? Generally speaking, human-beings find it very difficult to let go. This exercise is all about letting go, even when you think you’re right…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this very dynamic, yet powerful team-building exercise:
How did you feel about your gesture? Did this change over the course of the activity?
Was it easy to let go of something important to you, and change? Why?
Was consensus achieved? Why or why not?
How did the group demonstrate its ability to care for self and others?
Generally speaking, how did the group make decisions? How were all members involved?
Describe your group’s goal-setting process?
Why didn’t your group change?
Was adaptability a key component of the group’s success? How?
What did it take to change?
Are there parts of your life or work that are difficult to change, right now?
What would it take to influence your decision to let go?
The inspiration for Negotiation, and many more powerful, no-prop group initiatives, was sourced from the following publication: