When I was teaching ESL many years ago, I did the so-called “DIE” exercise with my students. The exercise highlighted the effect of our own experiences, backgrounds and culture on our analysis of events. The acronym “DIE” stood for “Description,” “Interpretation” and “Evaluation.” The students read written descriptions of various situations and were asked to give their opinion of what they read. The next step was to tear apart the factual description of a given situation from its interpretation and evaluation. The description focused on the facts. The interpretation revealed how the students made meaning of what they read. The evaluation was about their judgment, whether they considered something as good, bad, moral, reprehensible, etc. As a final step, I challenged the students to come up with different interpretations and evaluations of the events.
I think the usefulness of this exercise goes beyond cross-cultural training. The exercise offers a good way to reveal our own blind spots and become more empathetic. Next time you find yourself in a disagreement, try the “DIE” exercise and see what underlying assumptions it brings to light.