Saturday, February 20, 2016

Practicing Conversation....Without Words...

I have an activity I often use to begin talking about observational drawing.  It involves working with a partner with a set of blocks.  Each person has the same blocks.  They take turns as leader and follower; one person makes something and the other person recreates the creation.  The only rule is there is no talking.

I introduce this activity to focus on observing.  Before we add any mark making materials we do this activity to spend some time observing.  

Over the last few months I have done this activity more often with adults. What I notice is that it is as much about interaction as it is about observation.  When we talk about how it feels at the end, people comment on the peace of really just focusing on one thing with another person.  As the outside observer, I notice a gentle back and forth as participants check in with each other with eye contact, a nod, a smile.  

The photos above are from a parent education night focused on drawing with children at home.  It was the comments from this thoughtful group of parents that first brought my awareness to how much more was happening than just an exercise in observation.  There is observation but also mirroring and responding - and - a very focused sense of presence to another person.

A week or so after this I tried this activity as an opening for a group that focuses on lay pastoral care. It led us into conversations about attention to another person, pacing, and non-verbal communication.

This week we began our book discussion of Children's Imagination: creativity under our noses with a similar opening activity.  This offered participants a chance to get to know each other first through a conversation with materials before we moved on to more traditional introductions and discussion of the book.  

In this group, we also had fascinating discussions about how it felt to lead or to follow - some felt leading was harder while others felt following was more challenging.  Leading felt to some like pressure to perform while others worried about getting it right as the follower copying another's design.  I noticed the slowness and care people took in their building and also in checking in non-verbally with partners.

I'm curious if others can think of instances that feel like conversation but with action or interaction rather than words?

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