In acting class we do this exercise where the teacher makes us stand in a huge circle, shoulder width apart. She then hands a fist-sized plush ball to one of us and tell us to start throwing it across the circle.
the point of this exercise is to teach us the steps of communication.
1. You have to measure the distance
2. You have to truly identify a person, see them, and have them see you
3. You have to wait for that validation before throwing it.
On the receiving end, you have to be open. Literally if you don’t keep your shoulders loose and a constantly searching eye, no one will throw the ball to you. Once you make eye contact with the person holding the ball, you stare at them longer, catch the ball, and connect with them once more, to acknowledge that youv’e caught the ball.
A few things that I observed during this exercise:
1. It’s stupidly hard to throw the ball the right distance if you don’t take the time to truly identify and confirm with your target that you are going to throw to them.
2. It sucks when people don’t pass you the ball. But once you reach this suckiness, you tend to open up, smile (even if it’s forced), and search for peoples’ eye contact. Then you get the ball.
3. It’s really hard to remember to “acknowledge that you’ve received their ball.” It’s a small act of gratitude . But the general tendency is to catch it, revel in the success of catching the ball perfectly, and then identify the next human target. That small step–that nod of the head and prolonged, slightly awkward eye contact is SO hard to remember or do. And so most of us in this exercise forget.
I won’t insult your intelligence by explaining the metaphor between this ball exercise and communication in real life.
I’ve found that after doing this exercise in acting class, in interactions with friends and strangers, I look at them more. I focus on them and I listen to them and let them know I’m listening. I also thank them for speaking and expressing their thoughts. I want them to feel appreciated for communicating.