Change Implementation Techniques for Laying a Foundation for New Ways

Technique 1.35 Exposing Left‐hand Columns

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. This exercise helps you examine how you respond to a particular interpersonal problem by looking first at what was said and/or done (the right‐hand column), at what you were thinking and/or feeling at the same time (the middle‐column) and its implications (the left‐hand column) of this context. This is followed by a series of questions that are designed to improve your future responses.

. In addition to this self‐examination, your findings should be shared with a friend or colleague whose feedback is sought. Furthermore, you can rewrite the right hand column (what was said/done) and modify your responses, based upon what you learned from the exercise.


1 Usually choose a difficult interpersonal problem that you have been involved in lately. For example, you might select a situation where you felt you were being treated unfairly, or somebody wasn't pulling their weight. On the other hand, you could choose a positive situation, such as forgetting to convey your appreciation for something done that exceeded your expectation

2 Take a piece of paper and divide it into 3 columns, as illustrated below. In the right hand column, write down what was done in a recent situation and/or said in a conversation you recently had about the problem. If you haven't had the conversation yet, write down what you think might be said when you discuss the problem with someone.

3 In the middle column, write down what you were thinking and/or feeling about what was said and/or done

4 In the left hand column, write down the implications of what you thought and/or felt

5 Review what you have written and ask yourself

What has led me to think and feel this way?

What am I trying to accomplish?

Why didn't I say what I was thinking?

What assumptions was I making about how the other person might respond?

What prevented me from acting differently?

What were the costs/benefits to me/the organisation for the way I acted?

How can I use what I have learned from this exercise to improve my communications?

One of the aims of the exercise is to encourage us to reflect on, and recognize, the underlying mental models/assumptions/beliefs, etc that can influence what we say and do, in order to make future actions and responses more constructive or productive

Implications/consequences of what you felt and/or thought

What did you feel and/or think?

What was said and/or done?

An alternative way of doing this technique is set out below, ie following the sequence of questions:

1. The other person said and did these specific things....

2. With these consequences for me......

3. At the time I assumed he/she may have been trying to......

4. I felt, about him/her or about our relationship that......

5. As a consequence, what I intended to do was......

6. But what I actually did and stated in response was.....

7. I think the consequences to him/her may have been.....

8. As a result, he/she may have thought I was trying to.....

9. And I imagine, he/she may have felt about me or our relationship....

10. What he/she intended to do may have been......

(sources: Joseph Boyett et al, 1998 ; Bob Dick 1999)

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