Action storming for tackling difficult people


November 9th, 2012

The question comes up sooner or later: “How do you deal with difficult people?” Leaving aside the question of what makes people ‘difficult’, or that one person’s ‘difficult’ might be another person’s ‘creative’, this is the second most common question we’re asked about facilitating groups.

We’ve developed a rather nifty process that we’ve named Action Storming. We originally called it, jokingly, The Helsinki Method (that’s right, because we developed it in Helsinki. We being moi, Johnnie Moore and Simo Routarinne). The heart of it is to isolate the exact moment of difficulty – maybe down to one or two lines of dialogue and the precise situation. This can be tricky because we all like to elaborate and provide a back story and other sometimes illuminating details. What we’ve found though, is if we can isolate the exact moment of difficulty and recreate the scenario, we’re then ready to do some rapid action storming. This involves trying different approaches in quick succession, and as soon as someone in the group makes a suggestions along the lines of, “Why don’t you try…?” we invite them to tags the protagonist out and do what they have suggested – try something. We’ve found it creates a completely different way of tackling those difficult moments. Instead of theorising about what might work, analysing different responses and becoming increasingly abstract, Action Storming is far more concrete. You can see a physical shift in people when they get it – when something they try just works. Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it’s a surprise. No matter, when next faced with the same or a similar situation they are ready to try something different. The whole idea of Action Storming is to find ways to keep momentum, to enable connection, and to avoid getting stuck. It’s not about avoiding confrontation, or avoiding difficulty, or avoiding something unpleasant – it’s about giving people the skills, knowledge and awareness that they have it in themselves to respond in an appropriate way.

You could say we’re pretty excited about the potential for Action Storming.

So much so we made this little slideshow about it.

1 Comment so far

  1. Storming into action | rhizome on November 23, 2012 12:26 am

    [...] Viv McWaters and Johnnie Moore have written about what they’re calling “action storming” or “problem theatre” – just one method they use to shift people from thinking about to doing, from head to heart. It’s a method they’ve used to get people exploring working with ‘difficult people’, something that comes up for every group of would-be, or existing, facilitators and trainers. Action storming draws on a number of strands of dramatic technique. “This involves trying different approaches in quick succession, and as soon as someone in the group makes a suggestions along the lines of, “Why don’t you try…?” we invite them to tags the protagonist out and do what they have suggested – try something. We’ve found it creates a completely different way of tackling those difficult moments. Instead of theorising about what might work, analysing different responses and becoming increasingly abstract, Action Storming is far more concrete. You can see a physical shift in people when they get it – when something they try just works. Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it’s a surprise” Viv McWaters [...]

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