Exercise – “ What is this ?”


A socratic dialogue in 10 minutes


What is a Socratic dialogue?

A Socratic dialogue is a conversation in which the participants investigate the validity of their arguments and the truth of their beliefs about their experiences. They do so in an attempt to have a dialogue with each other. To start a Socratic dialogue, you need a moment out of the experience of one of the participants. Moreover, you need a well-formulated question that touchs the essence of this moment. Some examples :

  • When silence is better than talking?
  • What is being client friendly?
  • When do we work well together?

A good Socratic conversation is a conversation in which the participants:

  1. dare to take position on issue and formulate this.
  2. can concretize their overall findings in demonstrable experiences
  3. can deliver good arguments for their views
  4. investigate the answer to the question they have put themselves
  5. repeat what they have said and what others have said

Short Socratic dialogue (10) on What is this?

Here is a the instruction to a short form of Socratic dialogue (duration about 20 minutes, with a group of min. 4 max 12 people)

  1. The facilitator takes an object that looks a bit ‘problematic’, f.ex. a piece of art or an unrecognizable strange coffee cup.
  2. He/she places the object in the middle of the group and gives the instruction :  

“Try to find a common response to the question:” What is this? He gives the group about 10 minutes to do the job.

  1. During the conversation:
  2. the facilitator doesn’t intervene (for beginners)
  3. steers on the above items (Advanced)
  4. After 10 minutes, the facilitator asks every participant to formulate his or her answer to the question ‘what is this’? He/she points to the differences in these statements.
  5. The facilitator invites everyone to write down for themselves what they have done or what another participant has done, from the perspective of the above five items.
  6. In plenary, he/se examines why some participants did well on items and others not.

There are many variations possible, f.ex. with a external group sitting around a central investigation group with an observation task. After 7 minutes of investigation, the groups switch roles. In a plenary afterward, perspectives on the 5 Socratic competencies are exchanged.

More information on www.socraticdialogue.be

  •   Depart from a ‘zero empathy’- attitude, only work with what the other has literally said.
  •   Only ask questions or remain silent.
  •   Don’t paraphrase (“Do I hear you say that…?”) Don’t help (“Do you want to say…?”), don’t approve (“OK, interesting”) nor disapprove (“Do you really    think so?”).
  •   Question superficially : add nothing to the content about what the other literally says.
  •   Ask for what the other actually claims, on which concrete facts / experiences this claim is based and why he claims this.
  •   Listen very sharply to what the other says. Take notice if he answers your question or merely reacts to your question. If the latter is the case, repeat your question.
  •   Use in your question exactly the same words as the other so that he can relate to your question.

  If you do not understand something, just say it, then ask your partner to start again.

7 steps to make your client think critically.pdf
Short structured variation on Socratic Dialogue.docx
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