Someone else’s shoes: workshop exercise

This is a (very short) stand-alone workshop exercise which you can use as part of a much longer day.

  • Length: 10 minutes
  • Number of people: 1—5, or a larger group split up into small groups
  • Best used: middle of the day, when starting to plan actions
  • Purpose: to consider where others are coming from, with a view to working with them

What to do:

The facilitator or a member of the group should read (or paraphrase) the following text: Let’s imagine that you are speaking to someone who thinks the opposite to you on issues about which you care deeply. How can you speak to them about it? Perhaps you have argued about Black Lives Matter, or Trans Rights. Go through the questions below, jotting down some notes if it helps. While the following questions will not resolve the conflict, they will help you identify how you and the other person came to have different views.

Go through each of the following key points one at a time. Try to think about one person and one issue at a time.

1.      Has the other person lived in a different community, class or culture from you? What were or are the norms for them?

2.      What does the other person want to happen? What is their version of “good”? What are they aiming for? How similar is that to what you are working towards?

3.      Has the other person had their views shaped by specific experiences?

4.      Are you certain that you and the other person really feel differently? It is possible that it is more a difference in language than in action or outcome?

Consider each point in turn, and then consider as a whole.

If you are a climate activist, perhaps you could consider an elderly conservative farmer. They come from a rural traditional, perhaps more than a generation above you, perhaps with strict class barriers. They want a simple, ordered society, and they are wary of change. Perhaps they have had financial difficulties, and perhaps they suffered from flooding or from Foot and Mouth. They speak about “the countryside” and “land management”, while you talk about “the environment” and “sustainability”.

If you were able to recognise and accept the differences in your experiences and your language, would you be able to work together?

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