Silence and Patience – a naturalistic activity

One way to get into the themes of silence and patience is to use a form of naturalistic improvisation. What I like about naturalistic improv is that there is little or no “performance” aspect to it. We are not playing particularly to an audience, for laughs, or indeed any kind of theatrical effect – though it is an activity which can be watched. It can also be done in groups.

Identify a simple scene. For example:

– a group of people building a tower of cards together
– a game of hide and seek
– putting up a tent together
– cooking something together

It’s best if it is a silent activity as one can also look at all kinds of issues around how eye contact and other forms of nonverbal communication play into the effective completion of tasks.

There can be minimal verbal communication allowed if you want and it can be interesting to compare the scene where verbal and non verbal are automated.

The facilitator has a scale of ten – 1 to 10. When they call out a higher number the scene has to speed up. When they call a lower number the scene slows down. Zero is freeze. 5 is “normal” speed. The facilitator can slow or speed up the scene one number at a time, incrementally – or jump from 1 to 7!

When debriefing it can be good to explore who felt impatient at slower speeds, or when the scene was frozen. Also did the silence, the non-verbal aspect create a sense of impatience in some? We can also see how impatience can make the completion of a task less efficient.

I also like to explore the sense of “restlenessness” that some people feel – where the stress levels are, and whether there are any positive aspects of impatience in group work.

Variations on this exercise include:

– not using a scale but repeating a scene but asking the group to try to complete it together in a fixed amount of time e.g two minutes. Different group members will have a difference inner sense of what two minutes is (no looking at watches or clocks allowed!). Those with a faster inner time clock will often show impatience with those of a slower sense, and this will often surface in noisier behaviour.

– repeating the previous exercise several times and changing the fixed time zone e.g. “Now do it in 3 minutes” or “Now do it in 30 seconds!”.

Plenty to explore through this exercise.

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