This activity aims to create a safe and empathic setting by Dyad technique — conscious work in pairs. In this activity, each participant attunes to self while also empathically listening to their communication partner. The activity helps to build mutual trust, safe setting and also enables the two participants to develop a relationship. 1
Dyad technique did not originate from NVC practices but rose to fame thanks to NVC. In the context of non-violent communication, it was first used by Robert Gonzales. ↩︎
The number of people in your group should be even because this technique is based on work in pairs. The size of your group should not exceed the threshold above which people are unwilling to share. When setting a maximum number of participants, you should also consider what size is the place for your workshop. For this pair work, each pair must be provided with a place free from distractions of other participants.
Dyads are not suitable for groups of 3 because in that case, the technique does not perform its function. If the number of participants is odd, it is possible to complete the group to an even number by joining the facilitator.
Ask your group to work in pairs. Participants can form pairs according to their preferences, or we can assign them with the help of our technique of choice (counting them off, pieces of paper with paired symbols, etc.). Ask each pair to find their place in the room, so they are not distracted and would feel good there. Next, each pair’s task is to talk about a specific topic using the Dyad technique.
The facilitator assigns each pair a question to work on. Each pair agrees on who will talk first about the selected topic. This person is given a brief moment to think about what they want to talk about within the selected topic (e.g. “How am I today?”).
For a Dyad practice, pairs sit facing each other, having a clear view of their partner’s face. Use a sound signal to start a 2-minute time period that the first speaker can use to share their thoughts on the topic. No one interrupts their monologue neither asks them follow-up questions — just listens to their train of thoughts.
After the 2 minutes have passed, sound-signal the end of the first person’s monologue. The task of their listening partner is to repeat, in their own words, the fundamental information the speaker shared. After this, the listener checks with the speaker whether they understood and reproduced their monologue correctly while leaving room for the speaker to amend or correct the listener’s account of the monologue.
The Dyads switch roles, the speaker becomes the listener, and vice versa. The second round follows the same structure as described above.
If you are working with a group whose members know each other for a longer period of time, it is preferable to form pairs that are not very used to work together. This way, we support creating a safe space between those who do not come into contact often. Of course, this is a recommendation, not a strict rule. If you think random assignment into pairs is not suitable for your group, offer the participants an option to form pairs according to their preferences.
The work in Dyads is based on empathy for self — on empathy to listen to self as well as others. To build such empathy, it is key to connect both to your inner self and the other. This is why we emphasize that for practising this technique, it is important each pair finds a calm place where they are not distracted in their Dyad work by other participants.
If your group works with Dyad technique for the first time and this technique serves as an “opening activity” in the workshop structure, it is suitable to choose a topic for the pair work that is not controversial for anyone and participants can identify with it. Choose a Dyad question to match the given person’s inner experience. It is not the aim of the Dyad work to retell a story or to pass a certain type of information. On the contrary, Dyad aims to get closer to self, to attune to self. Therefore, it is not suitable to choose questions like “What did you do this week?” but rather questions concerning one’s inner experience such as “What was this week like for you?”, “Has anything important to you happened?”, or “What was your inner experience like this week?”.
For the Dyad work, it is suitable that partners sit facing each other and have a clear view of their partner’s face. This is important for facilitating the connection between the partners and for empathic listening. It is not possible to set the right mood if the partners cannot see each other, sit too far apart, or sideways.
The fundamental components of the Dyad work are the abilities to attune to self, to perceive self, and to listen to others. The speaker’s Dyad role provides an opportunity to talk about ourselves without interruption, to think about ourselves, to sort out our thoughts and feelings, to express ourselves freely, and to explore the direction that the question asked leads us. We can also remain silent and say nothing if we feel like that and our Dyad partner agrees. Being in this Dyad role, we practice empathy for self. By contrast, the listener’s Dyad role — listening without interruption and repeating what was said — allows us to attune to the partner, to their perception of the world. Being in this Dyad role, we practice the empathic listening technique.
Although the Dyad technique is primarily based on work in pairs, using this technique also helps to create a safe space for the whole group. During the Dyad activity, participants are introduced to the empathic listening technique, which they can consequently apply to further pair work as well as group work.
We can discuss the pair work in the group using the following questions:
How did you feel when you had a chance to express yourself without being interrupted by the listener?
How was it for you when you did not have a possibility to comment on the speakers’ talk?
Was your communication partner able to reproduce your story with the same meaning it carries for you?
Was it difficult to reproduce the story of your speaking partner while keeping the meaning it has for them?
During the Dyad activity, have you personally found anything surprising?
Concerning the first question for the discussion “How did you feel when you had a chance to express yourself without being interrupted by the listener?”, you may try to explain to participants that it is normal they might have experienced strange or even uncomfortable feelings. For most of us, this communication role can be new and unusual, and this is why it is understandable we may not feel well in it for the first time.