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A “jolt” of reality


Group 2 – non subject-specific activities




  • To understand how we filter information and form assumptions
  • To be able to re-examine one’s assumptions and avoid automatic reactions
  • To demonstrate how our behaviours are often influenced by cultural values or filters


8-15 min (3-5 minutes for the activity, 5-10 minutes for debriefing)


1. Ask the participants to stand and find a partner. Direct partners to face each other, place their feet firmly on the floor, and then raise both hands and place them palm-to-palm at shoulder height.

2. Now tell participants that to win at this activity, they must make the other person move his or her feet-within 30 seconds. Start the timing. (Note: most participants will use brute force to push each other. Some may try to negotiate or bribe the other person to move. A few may stop pushing and let the other person’s momentum propel him or her forward).

3. After 30 seconds, stop the activity & ask a few participants to share some of the strategies they used to get the other person move.

4. Ask for a volunteer. Assume the face-to-face, palm-to-palm position. Whisper to the other person « Let’s dance ». Hum a tune and move your feet together.

5. The participants will probably protest that this is cheating. Remind them that the directions were simply to get the other person to move his or her feet within the 30-second time frame. These were no restrictions on moving your own feet or communicating. Ask participants who won.

6. Debrief:

  • Describe what happened. When you hear interpretations, such as “she tried to bribe me” rather than descriptions like “she offered me something”, ask the participants to describe behaviours only.
  • How did you feel about how you behaved? Your partner’s behaviour? The outcome?
  • What values were behind the different strategies people used?
  • What did you learn from the activity itself and from the “dance” strategy?
  • How can this learning be applied?

7. Debriefing conclusions:

  • We tend to filter information, form assumptions based on our own experience and values, and then act according to these assumptions. Cultural values such as cooperation, competition, individualism and collectivism are demonstrated in this kind of activity.
  • Assumptions can prevent us from exploring alternative behaviours.
  • Cultural values such as individualism and competition may result in conflict and block win-win solutions.
  • Meeting force with force is almost always futile.


Group adapted from an activity presented by Sivasailam Thiagarajan @ The Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication, 2000. Republished in « 52 Activities for Exploring Cultural Values », by Donna M. Stringer & Patricia A. Cassiday

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