As facilitators working with a wide range of corporate, community and youth groups, we constantly confronted a lack of effective communication between individuals and groups, and an absence of trust that undermined effective teamwork. We found that:
- people communicated differently with in-group and out-group members: members of one group usually spoke about, not with, members of other groups;
- even people who liked each other and worked closely together frequently
- didn't know how to raise with each other the issues they most needed to address;
- didn't really listen, or respond effectively to, what members of other groups had to say;
- didn't know how to give, or respond to feedback;
- even when people set out to resolve their differences, they continued to hear everything that others said through the filters of their existing prejudices, stereotypes and labels.
In wrestling with these problems we found that the most significant catalyst in creating trust and changing attitudes was an open exchange of feelings about common human experiences and a blame-free exploration of perspectives on issues affecting participants' relationships with each other. We found this was most effective when the participants:
engaged as equals, where divisions of power, gender, race, culture, geography etc., played little role in the interaction;
- could discover each other's humanity before exploring the issues which divided them;
- could reflect on, and practice, the communication processes that made their exchanges effective;
- developed sufficient comfort with the dialogue process to engage in robust exchanges of honest feelings and concerns.
We also learned that such interactions were most successful when the exchange was unfacilitated, unobserved and a lot of fun.Know Me evolved as a tool to achieve all this. Although Know Me resulted from a process which began in South Africa in the early 1980's, the final product was designed and manufactured in Canada.