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jay_ghreen comments on Wait vs Interrupt Culture - Less Wrong

71 Post author: Benquo 27 November 2013 03:38PM

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Comment author: jay_ghreen 12 December 2013 07:58:09PM 8 points [-]

At one organization I work with we mostly have a 'wait' culture, and it is socially enforced, since we have recognized that many of our members are 'waiters' and will not speak if interrupters do not give them a chance.

With more than 3-4 people we use several hand signals to facilitate conversation. We have the usual raised hand to speak next, but we also have a separate gesture for 'I have a direct response to what you just said', which takes priority over raised hands. It works as a 'soft interrupt', and it is up to the current speaker to let the interrupter speak. The interrupter can usually communicate how urgent/important they think their interruption is through body language. Now when the conversation gets heated we have people gesturing hard at each other instead of shouting. I think it does improve the quality of conversations.

We also have a gesture for 'I agree with this', and a gesture for meta-communication. The 'meta' gesture has absolute priority and is used for things like bringing the conversation back on tracks at meetings, or to remind people to follow the conversation rules. We usually don't need a designated moderator as we moderate each other and enforce the norms with the 'meta' signal'.

I've found this system improves the quality and productivity of our group conversations and I've found myself getting frustrated in other groups who don't use hand signals.

Comment author: ialdabaoth 12 December 2013 08:09:51PM *  2 points [-]

I find all this VERY intriguing. I'd be interested to hear what specific hand signals you use, to see if they match the ones I've traditionally used.

For completeness, here's my set:

  • Raised hand - "I would like to ask a question / speak next-in-queue"
  • Raised fist with index finger pointing upwards - "I have a direct response to what you just said" (some people extend this by raising multiple fingers as they cache more points, and raising the hand higher as the urgency of a point gets promoted)
  • Raised fist with thumb pointing upwards - "I agree with this"
  • Hand out, palm forward/down, fingers pointed towards speaker - "please table this for now" / "please give someone else a turn" / "you are violating conversational norms"
Comment author: jay_ghreen 12 December 2013 10:13:40PM *  1 point [-]

Raised hand: 'want to talk'

Point at someone with both index fingers, alternating (this gesture is a bit hard to describe, it's like if you were making guns with your hands and shooting at them, with a lot for recoil): 'direct response'. You can usually tell how urgent they think the point is by how hard they're moving their hands/how close they are to the edge of their seat, etc.

Triangle with index finger and thumb of both hands: 'process point / meta-communication'

Twinkles (wiggling fingers of both hands): when unprompted, 'I agree/like what you just said', or it can be used to answer questions on a scale based on the position of the hands -> high twinkles is positive/I agree/a lot, low twinkles is negative/disagree/a little, middle is 'meh'

The wiki article on occupy movement hand signals has pictures and good descriptions of these signals, and others.

Comment author: ialdabaoth 12 December 2013 10:25:04PM *  3 points [-]

Oh, you're using the Occupy system! (I started to recognize it as I read through.)

Out of curiosity, how many groups have adopted that system post-Occupy, vs. how many Occupy-descended groups have inherited it?

EDIT: Is mentioning Occupy bad around here?

Comment author: jay_ghreen 12 December 2013 10:39:01PM 0 points [-]

I didn't realize these signals were used by Occupy until I looked for good pictures and stumbled on that article while writing my previous post.

The group I was referring to has no ties to Occupy. I'm not sure where we picked up the meme. The wiki article mentions other groups were using some of these signals before Occupy.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 12 December 2013 08:32:51PM 0 points [-]

How did you get everyone using it?

(As I've commented on elsewhere in this thread, I tried to get a similar scheme going using colored index cards once, but it didn't really take off.)

Comment author: jay_ghreen 12 December 2013 10:22:16PM 2 points [-]

They were already using them when I joined, so I'm not sure.

Comment author: ialdabaoth 12 December 2013 10:27:04PM 2 points [-]

The Occupy movement, for all the thrashing it got in the media, was really PHENOMENALLY well-organized as a social system. Whoever was responsible for its memetics needs to write some books and found a university dedicated to teaching the practice.