We fill roles according to either our default preferences, or the capacities we have developed to flex into other roles. We can hear this in the language that we use to make sense of our, and others’, behavior:
- “He always has to be the one to speak up first!”
- “She never says anything, just goes along with what others suggest!”
- “If I don’t challenge ideas, no one else will and we’ll end up with a bad decision!”
As a result of all this, despite our best intent we often fill a role as a reaction, rather than as a conscious choice. Just as we can become rigid with our learning styles, we can also be very rigid with the kinds of roles we know how, or are willing, to fill in conversations. Rigidity can lead to dysfunctional patterns of interaction that seem intractable and lead to unproductive conflict.
However, we can learn to recognize these roles and build our abilities to fill them by choice, rather than simply reacting. The Actions Domain gives us language to do just this.
Actions Domain of the Four Player model
The Actions Domain deals with observable verbal communication; namely language and how it is used within a conversation. The model presents four discrete types of actions: move, oppose, follow, and bystand.
- Move is an attempt to initiate action. It sets the direction of the conversation; “shall we begin the meeting?” or “my suggestion is to do [fill in the blank].”
- Oppose may come across as a block to a move. It brings correction to the conversation; “we can’t start without everyone present.” or “that’s not what the data says.”
- Follow goes along with a move. It continues or completes the direction set by the move it is following; “I’m OK to start without everyone here, yet.” or “I agree with your assessment of the data.”
- Bystand seeks to broaden the perspective and provide a new angle. It brings unbiased information into the conversation, as someone standing back a bit sharing her perspective would be able to do; “yes, it is 9 o’clock, which we agreed as the start time. We also agreed to begin whether or not everyone is present, though we’ve also found that when we do, we have to backtrack and repeat what we’ve already discussed.” or “depending on how we look at the data, both suggestions have merit.”