Non-visual understanding – Field trip to “Dialogue in the Dark”

Team building is often easier in total darkness than it is in normal everyday situations. Since darkness promotes better communication, clearer thinking and more lively ideas. As MA Psychology & Management students, we had an opportunity to experience this first hand during a field trip to “Dialogue in the Dark” in Hamburg together with our lecturer Prof. Dr. Ute Rademacher.
We were given a warm welcome by Dörte Maack, the Head of Education and Learning, and her dog, Lila. Any initial fears were soon cast aside once Dörte provided us with plenty of interesting facts about the “Dialogue in the Dark” exhibition.

Discovering the invisible

Then the excitement began…hand in hand we entered the utter darkness of the blackbox and were led by Dörte into a room, the size of which was difficult to guess. The first task proved to be more challenging than expected: “Please form a circle.” Which was easier said than done! After our first blundering attempt to form a circle intuitively, we discovered the right tactic and mastered this initial exercise relatively quickly. We were then split into two groups for the next exercise and ordered to stand around a tall bar table. The first problem we encountered was finding the tables. The two teams were then given the task of putting together the pieces of an unknown object. This was completed relatively successfully by both groups due to their excellent communication skills. The difficultly of this exercise stemmed from the fact that each member of the five-man team was given several pieces whose size and shape they had to explain as precisely as possible to the others. We were not permitted to touch the individual pieces held by our fellow team members.
The final exercise was tackled by the group as a whole. The aim was to have a little tea party in total darkness. Tables and chairs were arranged at the right spot. Plates, cups and cutlery set out on the tables. The biggest challenge however was pouring the coffee or tea without spilling it. The cake was cut – but in the darkness and confusion lemon cake suddenly became chocolate. Our tour ended with a Q&A session during which Dörte gave us an insight into her professional background and the training of the “Dialogue in the Dark” guides.

Effective communication

For me personally, a fascinating aspect of the field trip was how relaxed I felt in the dark and how well we all coped with the situation. As soon as we entered the darkness we started working together as a well oiled team. This was characterised by our mutual consideration for one another and precise communication. We listened carefully, allowed each other to talk without interruption, and used more figurative and less abstract language than is usually the case. I discovered a new and exciting new method of personnel development. After the informative and very entertaining morning in the blacked-out room, I am sure it will achieve greater popularity in the future and I am definitely interested in discovering more about it. The field trip additionally showed the diversity with which our senses can cope and the specific use of communication in different situations.

Author: Sandra Fischer