Each month we bring you a nonviolence training workshop
based on the experience of the Nonviolent Action Training
project and INNATE.
here to view print version]
by Anne Hope and Sally Timmel*
The donkey who is very stubborn, will not change
his/her point of view.
The lion who gets in and fights whenever others
disagree with his/her plans or interfere with her or his desires.
The rabbit who runs away as soon as (s)he senses
tension, conflict, or an unpleasant job. This may mean quickly
switching to another topic.
The ostrich who buries his or her head in the
sand and refuses to face reality or admit there is any problem
The monkey who fools around, chatters a lot
and prevents the group from concentrating on any serious business.
The elephant who simply blocks the way, and
stubbornly prevents the group from continuing along the road
to their desired goal.
The giraffe who looks down on others, and the
programme in general, feeling "I am above all this childish
The tortoise who withdraws from the group, refusing
to give his or her ideas or opinions.
The cat who is always looking for sympathy.
"It is so difficult for me....miauw..."
The peacock who is always showing off, competing
for attention; "See what a fine fellow I am!"
The snake who hides in the grass and strikes
The rhino who charges around 'putting her/his
foot in it' and upsetting people unnecessarily.
The owl who looks very solemn and pretends to
be very wise, always talking in long words and complicated
The mouse who is too timid to speak up on any
The frog who croaks on and on about the same
subject in a monotonous voice.
The hippo who sleeps all the time, and never
puts up his head except to yawn.
The fish who sits there with a cold glassy stare,
not responding to anyone or anything.
The chameleon who changes colour according to
the people she is with. She'll say one thing to this group
and something else to another.
- - - - -
* Taken from 'Unhelpful
behaviour in a group; Animal codes' beginning on page 71 of
Book 2 of "Training for Transformation - a handbook for
community workers" by Anne Hope and Sally Timmel, Mambo
Press, 1984 (republished more recently elsewhere and available
on the internet). In the original each animal is accompanied
by a picture.
Participants will need a copy of the animal
The original book, "Training for Transformation",
suggests that after each animal has been explained, participants
are asked to find a partner with whom they feel at home and
discuss 'If and when they have behaved like any one of these
animals during the workshop?'
It might be better not to limit this to the
workshop but to ask "Which of these animals do you most
often imitate?" This can be done in a one-to-one as suggested.
After this, a plenary session can look at "How can we
deal effectively with these kinds of behaviour?" . More
generally it can be used as a jumping off point for a discussion
of group dynamics and the problems experienced by particular
groups. The emphasis here needs to move to "What can
be done about it?" which can be explored using brainstorms
and role play, particularly exploring particular kinds of
intervention. This can also be combined with exploring consensus
methodologies (also on the INNATE website under Workshops);
e.g. pick a topic, let people act out their 'animal roles'
except for a facilitator (who can rotate) who tries to use
consensus methodologies to arrive at a decision.....and let
all fun break loose.
You can ask "Are there other kinds of animals
around in groups?" and let people describe their characteristics
if they can suggest ones not listed. You can also brainstorm
'What kinds of animals and their characteristics would you
like to see in groups?', turning it into a positive.
It has to be admitted that these 'animal stereotypes'
are generally untrue to the reality of the animals concerned
and are anthropomorphic (one sense of which is attributing
human characteristics to animals - a mouse is not actually
"too timid to speak up on any subject"). However,
given that it makes a more enjoyable way for us humans to
learn, it is justified in the context. You can, if desired,
point out that it is humans who behave like the descriptions
given and not animals - though they are not necessarily perfect
A fun way to break the session, or end it, is
to invite people to do an impression of the movements and
sounds of 'their' animal (the one whose qualities listed they
most often imitate). Beware of the snakes...