Left-Hand Column Exercise

The left-hand column is the basic premise that during conversations there are actually two conversations taking place. One conversation is explicit. This conversation consists of the words that are actually spoken throughout the exchange between two or more persons. The other conversation consists of what the individuals are thinking and feeling but not saying. The term "left hand column" is derived from an exercise designed to explore what is not said, but thought about, during the course of a conversation. This "tool" offers a way to actually study our conversations so that we can re-design them to be more effective at creating the results that we wish to create.

Step 1: The Right-Hand Column (What was said). Take several pieces of paper and draw a line down the center. In the right-hand column, write out the conversation that actually occurred. Or write the conversation you're pretty sure would occur if you were to raise this issue. The discussion may go on for several pages. Leave the left-hand column blank until you're finished.

Step 2: The Left-Hand Column (What you were thinking). Now in the left-hand column, write out what you were thinking and feeling, but not saying.

Step 3: Individual Reflection: Using your left-hand column as a resource. You can learn a great deal just from the act of writing out a case, putting it away for a week, and then looking at it again. As you reflect, ask yourself:

Left-hand column #2
(What I was thinking and feeling.)
Right-hand column
(What was said.)

The Left Hand Column Exercise is adopted from The Field Discipline Fieldbook, by Peter Senge.