Dialogueing in the dark

06 Mar

Dialogue-in-the-Dark franchise logoEver had a dinner in total darkness? Not just when the power’s out and you have a candle burning or some light flickering somewhere. I mean eating a whole meal in total blackness.

Well, there are over 130 cities in more than 30 countries that offer that experience in the Dialogue-in-the-Dark facility and restaurant for dining in the dark. I didn’t go for the meal but had a one hour tour in one centre in Hyderabad, India. Set up in the In Orbit Mall and run by the local extraordinarily talented young drama group, most members of which are blind. Yes, I and 10 other fully sighted folk were taken on a tour by blind guides – people who inhabit the dark space permanently every day.

Visit the link: to learn more…I’m quoting here to give a better sense of what they do:

The concept of Dialogue in the Dark is simple: visitors are lead by blind guides in groups through specially constructed dark rooms in which scent, sound, wind, temperature and texture convey the characteristics of daily environments – for example a park, a city, a boat cruise or a bar. The daily routines become a new experience. A reversal of roles is created: people who can see are taken out of their familiar environment. Blind people provide them with security and a sense of orientation by transmitting to them a world without pictures.

More than seven million visitors worldwide have experienced Dialogue in the Dark, and thousands of blind guides and trainers have found employment through Dialogue in the Dark. This is social entrepreneurship at its best with reputable global not-for-profit organizations supporting the projects. So, what’s in it for any of us who see?

I realized how totally unaware I was of any physical space, sounds or objects around me that I CAN’T see! I also realized what a poor listener I truly am and really had to struggle to strain to hear the instructions. Of course I was afraid – even a bit panicky – which the guides knew fully well. They provided the reassuring talk all the way through – keep your hand sliding on the wall on your right…stop…turn to the left…now you’re walking across a bridge and hear water, etc. More than anything else, I felt I lost control of my environment. I realized how powerful vision is and how much we rely on it alone to give us information about…well, everything. Wow!

So, who goes to Dialogue-in-the-Dark venues? A lot of people, including corporate folk – managers, staff, leaders who are “visionaries” – no pun intended. The role reversal alone is a challenge to throw any illusions about having control into a higher gear. There’s a lot to be gained by this temporary “loss”. I gained a new much better understood respect for those who cannot see and need to build relationships of trust with others around them.

I used the experience to design with colleagues a course on Power Speaking. We worked into the design 15 minutes of people sitting in the dark with masks on to give them a chance to LISTEN and SPEAK without seeing each other. Guess what? They LOVED it. Most said they “heard differently” and yes, were challenged by the lack of visual clues. Ever think about how much we rely on visuals alone everywhere all the time? And how trustworthy is that information we get by seeing?

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Posted by on March 6, 2014 in travel journals


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