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Understanding Others: In Character Exercise On Perspective Taking

Brief Description/Purpose

Promote listening, and taking on the other person's perspective when disagreement occurs.


Pairs, Experiential

Age Appropriate

Teens, Adults

Ideal Group Size

Any group size since the exercise is done in pairs.

Time For Exercise

15 - 30 minutes


Conflict, communication, listening, perspective taking, understanding others, managing disagreement

Detailed Instructions If Needed

Have participants pick partners and choose a topic from a topic list which you've prepared in advance

 Encourage participants to choose a pair of topics where they have preexisting and opposite viewpoints. One person takes one viewpoint regarding the topic; the other person takes the opposing viewpoint.

For example, one person believes the toilet paper should roll over the top while the other believes the paper should roll from the bottom. Once a topic is agreed upon and it has been decided which partner will take which side of the argument, give them their objective. Let participants know they will need to gain a thorough understanding of each other’s viewpoint because eventually each partner will take on the other person’s role—the role that is opposite from his or her own position.

To play the other role convincingly, have participants interview each other so they can really get into character when it comes time to play the role of the opposing viewpoint. Emphasize that you will be expecting them to make us believe their character.

Additional Information if Available

Here are some possible debrief questions:

1. When you were asking questions to research your part, how well did you listen?

2. What listening skills did you use?

3. How was this listening different from the way we usually listen?

4. What kind of feedback did you provide when listening?

5. When we have opposite beliefs, do we usually take the time to understand the other person’s viewpoint? Why not?

6. What did it feel like to engage in dialogue? Where can we use this skill?

7. In what ways might dialogue transform conflict?

Adapted from: The Big Book of Conflict Resolution Games: Quick, Effective Activities to Improve Communication, Trust and Collaboration (Big Book Series)