9.2.1 Facilitating Mutual Exploration: Simple Partnering

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Here, you would usually combine grid elicitation and analysis into one session

lasting between two hours and a full day, depending on the setting and the

number of people involved. In either case, the procedure has the same

skeleton, and what varies is the amount of flesh you put on these procedural

bones, that is, the amount of time you spend on each step. The procedure is

straightforward but the results are, potentially, very rich.

(1) Negotiate a confidentiality contract. Before you start to take the group

through the basic elicitation procedure, make sure that everyone knows that

they will be showing their grids to each other. Assure them that the grid is a

very powerful technique in that it can get beyond the ‘motherhoods’ and ‘first

approximations’, but that it is completely safe, in the sense that each person

remains in control of what they write on their grid sheet. If anyone doesn’t

wish to share something because it’s too private, they can reword what they

write onto the sheet, or think of something else to write.

(2) Agree a set of elements sensible to all. The topic is the same for all, and

the elements are specified in the same way for all. You could:

. supply the same set of elements to everyone;

. lead a discussion in which you negotiated a set of elements through group

discussion, which would then be used by everyone. This is a good way of

exploring what a topic means to everyone in the group, and could itself take

up to an hour, with some flip-chart work on your part as you note and agree

a common set;

. elicit elements, each person providing his or her own elements under

categories which are common to all.

(See Section 3.2.2 on choosing elements.) The one thing you would probably

not do is to let each person choose their own elements completely freely, as

this might broaden the realm of discourse beyond the point at which construct

comparisons are meaningful.

(3) Agree appropriate anonymity arrangements for elements. Because they

will be looking at each other’s grids, you may need to get the interviewees to

anonymise the elements on their grids. For example, if the topic is about ‘our

bosses in this firm’, or ‘our fellow students’, the interviewees may wish to use

initials in place of names – or even to resort to numbers. One technique here is

to number the element spaces on the grid sheet, and ask each interviewee to jot

the names which correspond to each element on a separate sheet of paper,

which they show to no one. A lot depends on the exact nature of the topic, and

the circumstances in which this event takes place. This isn’t a difficult issue,

but it is important and you need to think it through in advance.

(4) Elicit the repertory grids. As in Section 3.1.2, each person fills in their own

grid sheet for themselves. You could elicit the grids in separate sessions with

each interviewee, but usually, in a counselling or change setting, it helps to

build social involvement and rapport if you treat this as a group session.

Consider using a common qualifying phrase (see Sections 3.2.1 and 3.2.3); don’t

expend too much effort on laddering down, since you will want your

interviewees to explore this mutually rather than during the initial elicitation

activity.

(5) Put the interviewees into pairs, and ask each pair to swap grids. Set each

member of the pair the task of ‘seeing how your partner views this topic’.

. Run though the bare bones of an eyeball analysis (see Section 5.3.2) and put

the main steps as headings onto a flip-chart that everyone can see.

. Emphasise that if they aren’t sure of what their partner means by a construct,

they should ask the partner.

. They may wish to take turns to interview each other about the other’s grid,

looking for points of similarity and difference in each other’s construing.

. Helping each other to clarify meaning, as by laddering down initially vague

constructs, is very worthwhile and may be central to this dialogue. Explain

the purpose and the technique of laddering down (Section 4.4.1); encourage

the use of the basic pyramiding technique (Section 4.4.2) if you want to

encourage an examination of the variety of the partner’s construing.

(6) Process the outcomes in a plenary session. Whether you’re working with

one pair of participants or many, the purpose is to generalise the outcomes

from the above step, getting the interviewees to discuss and understand

whatever common patterns exist, between pairs and (as appropriate) across all

the pairs. Various ways of managing and extending this plenary session will

occur to you, depending on your experience of facilitating other people’s

learning, but it would be useful to bear the following three points in mind.

. Summarise similarities and differences (perhaps by means of two simple

headings on a flip-chart, getting participants to call them out as agreed

between pairs). It is important to examine differences, and to negotiate a

common stance towards them. Can they be minimised, debated, or

eliminated, or is an explicit ‘agreement to differ’ required?

. Explore the background and, where possible, causes. Encourage the

participants to discuss the reasons that might underlie the similarities, and

especially the differences in construing, under at least two headings: are they

personal, or role-related?

. Draw on personal construct theory as appropriate when handling the

facilitation. Appendix 6 gives a brief summary of the formal content of the

theory, and Section 5.3.3 provides you with a vocabulary, some of which

may be relevant as the participants explore the different kinds of constructs

they are using. The issue of values, as summarised by the notion of a core

construct, may be useful in examining the questions of ‘what kind of

relationship would we like between us?’ and ‘what sort of a group/

department organisation would we like to be?’ You would not, on the whole,

engage in any explicit value elicitation of the kind outlined in Section 8.1.1

without contracting to do so in a subsequent session of single interviews,

which you had thought through carefully in advance.

(7) Agree an appropriate action plan. You would usually want to turn the

material on the flip-chart into some form of implications for action, and

(depending on what kind of intervention this has been) negotiate an

appropriate degree of commitment to that action.

I’ve described the simple partnering procedure in the form of a personal/team

development activity, where the interaction between the interviewees is an

important part of the process. Of course, there may be situations in which the

grids have to be elicited in separate sessions, with the face-to-face activity

between interviewees being organised as a plenary feedback session in which

you have done much of the analysis previously. There are several good

accounts of the latter in Stewart & Stewart (1982).