Speaking Truth to Power: workshop exercise

This is an interesting, interactive workshop exercise which you can use as part of a much longer day.

  • Length: ten to twenty minutes
  • Number of people: any
  • Best used: towards the start of the day, to set the scene
  • Purpose: to encourage participants to think about nuance and complexity, to look at different ways of communicating

What to do:

The facilitator writes these words on a board/flipchart, in the following way:

The aim of the exercise is to come up with for synonyms each word. The facilitator will ask the participants to think of synonyms for “speaking”, and perhaps will offer “talking” and “discussing”. With a large audience, ask people to put up their hands, with a smaller audience calling out might be better. The facilitator writes the words suggested next to or around “speaking”.

The facilitator repeats the process for “truth”, “to”, and “power”. It’s sensible to use different colour pens. When finished, it might look like this:

Discuss, using the following questions as a guide:

How wide is the gap between “considering perspectives with representatives” and “shouting facts at hierarchies”? In which sort of situations might you use different methods? Which of these forms of speaking come most easily to you? With what sort of truth are you most comfortable? Do you prefer a confrontational “at” or a communal “with”? What types of power to do you encounter most often?

Discuss for as long as you wish!

This exercise is one which I created myself and have found useful with many groups. Feel free to use it in your workshops.

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