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Silent Interview
DonnaStringer,ExecutiveDiversityServices,Inc.
Seattle,Washington,USA
Purposeandlearningobjectives
To introduce training participants to one another
To examine stereotypes and first impressions
To examine what cultural assumptions people make on first meeting
Targetaudience
This is a good icebreaker for a diversity awareness class where participants do not know one
another well. It has worked in several international groups with up to 13 national populations
represented and is especially useful for making the point that stereotypes are based on visual
differences.
Time
60 minutes with a group of 30 or less. Use with larger groups is not recommended because
the reporting and introductions step becomes tedious if too many are in the group. It is ideal
for groups of 20 or less.
Materials
Handout 1, “Silent Interview: Process,” for each participant
Handout 2, “Interview Questions,” for each participant
Procedure
1. Pair individual participants with others whom they don’t know or whom they know least
well.
2. Tell participants that they have 10 minutes to complete the silent interview process about
their partner. There is to be no talking during this time.
3. Stress that it is okay to look at your partner during this exercise, even if you might not
normally do such a thing, and that it is okay to make guesses and to be wrong.
4. When 10 minutes are up, ask the partners to share their answers with one another and
obtain the accurate information.
50ActivitiesforAchievingCulturalCompetency
32
5. Have each person introduce her or his partner to the whole group and share information
about one thing they learned from the verbal interviews that took them by surprise.
6. Ask for their observations about this process. What was easy and why? What was difficult
and why?
You may modify the questions to address the cultural or cross-cultural issues of greatest
interest or concern among participants.
Debrief
Guide the debrief in the direction of these important conclusions:
1. First impressions, which we all have, are usually colored by our own feelings and values.
Because of this, our first impressions are sometimes wrong.
2. Being asked to share those first impressions is uncomfortable because we are aware that
they might be based on stereotypes and consequently be inaccurate.
3. Knowing that others are judging us is an uncomfortable feeling.
4. Our first impressions can be even more inaccurate if we are unable to ask for and receive
feedback.
5. Some people are uncomfortable being the first to speak because their culture considers
this impolite. For others, it might not be uncomfortable at all.
6. Assumptions are based on previous experience, as are the categories we use to assess one
another.
7. We often miss important clues.
SilentInterview
Reproducedfrom50ActivitiesforAchievingCulturalCompetence,byJonamayLambert,
SelmaMyers,andGeorgeSimons,editors.Amherst,MA:HRDPress,2000,2008
[Handout1]
Silent Interview: Process
Instructions:
Pair up with the person in this room with whom you are least familiar.
First 10 minutes:
Conduct a silent interview with your partner.
NO TALKING!
Answer the questions on Handout 2, “Interview Questions,” by looking
at your partner and responding as you believe your partner would, if she
or he could speak.
a) Write your answers for each question on the lines labeled “a)”.
Second 10 minutes:
b) Share your presumed responses with your partner. Ask for your
partner’s actual responses. Discuss how you arrived at your
assumptions. Write your partner’s own answers to each question
on the lines labeled “b)”.
Brief:
Back in the large group, introduce your partner by name and share the
most surprising discovery you made about her or him.
SilentInterview
Reproducedfrom50ActivitiesforAchievingCulturalCompetence,byJonamayLambert,
SelmaMyers,andGeorgeSimons,editors.Amherst,MA:HRDPress,2000,2008
[Handout2]
Interview Questions
1. What is this person’s ethnic or national group?
a)
b)
2. Where did this person grow up? Describe the neighborhood and the geography.
a)
b)
3. What does this person do in his or her spare time?
a)
b)
4. What would be the ideal gift for this person?
a)
b)
5. What kind of school or educational institution did this person attend?
a)
b)
6. Describe this person’s current neighborhood: rural, suburban, or core city; busy or quiet; sin-
gle home or apartment; etc.
a)
b)

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