The best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life, acknowledge the great powers around us and in us. If you can do that, and live that way, you are really a wise man. 

Euripides (480-406)
Greek tragedian

The German psychologist Ruth C. Cohn (1912—2010) invented the concept of Theme-centred Interaction, often just referred to as TCI. This mainly psychological methodology for group work focuses on active, creative and discovering learning process. Thereby a balance between the need of an individual, a group and a topic plus a global situation must be maintained.

Three TCI Axioms

Theme Centered Interaction is based on three axioms.

  1. Autonomy: ‘Man is a psycho-biological unit. He is also part of the universe. He is autonomous and interdependent. Autonomy grows with the consciousness of Interdependence.’
  2. Esteem: ‘Reverence is due for every living and its growth. Respect for growth requires evaluated decisions. The humane is valuable, the inhumane is threatening values.’
  3. Extend limits: ‘Free decision happens within inner and outer boundaries. An extension of these limits is possible.’
Theme centered Interaction

Three Postulates of Theme Centered Interaction

Theme-Centered Interaction
You are in charge of yourself – but pay attention to the group, the topic and surrounding.

These three axioms lead to three postulates:

  1. Be your own chairperson, the chairperson of yourself! That means you need to understand your own possibilities and limitations and to take each situation as an opportunity to take your own decision.
  2. Disturbances have priority! ‘The postulate that disturbances and compassionate feelings have priority means that you need to recognise the reality of a human being. This includes the fact that our bodies and souls are carriers of thoughts and actions.’
  3. Be responsible for your action and inaction — on a personal and social level.

Basic Rules

Besides the fact that Theme Centered Interaction is a very liberal way of thinking (‘freedom with personal responsibility’) it is helpful for engaging in group work.

From this, a few basic rules have been developed, which help in practical work. If the whole group applies them it will create a positive working atmosphere.

  • Represent yourself and do not hide behind a group or public opinion. Say ‘I’, not ‘we’ or ‘one’! This helps also to differentiate between personal hypothesis and facts.
  • When you ask a question, mention why you are asking it and what this question means for you (in other words, avoid an interview situation). This means that the question becomes more authentic and more personal. Importantly, it also becomes clearer.
  • Be authentic and selective in your communication. Make yourself aware of what you think and feel! Choose what you say and do.
  • Restrain yourself from interpretation of others as much as possible. Talk about your own reactions instead.
  • Be reticent with generalisations! Generalisations do interrupt group processes. They only help to summarise a topic and bridge to a new one.
  • Whenever you say something about the behaviour or characteristics of another participant, also add what it means to you that she/he is the way she/he is.
  • Conversational tangents have priority. They disturb the overall group process but are also often important for the persons involved first hand. They would not happen if they were not important. They can bring new ideas, clarify ambiguities, underline misunderstandings, or indicate a distorted interaction. Thus, they might helpful for the whole group on the second hand.
Without Theme Centered Interaction going wrong: everybody speaks - nobody listens.
Going wrong: everybody speaks – nobody listens.

Only one person should talk at a time. Nobody can listen to more than one sentence simultaneously. This sends a signal of a concentrated interest for each other, which keeps groups together. If several people want to talk at the same time arrange yourself by indicating the content. Thus, all concerns are taken into account before the group moves on. Pay attention to body language and signals (including your own)!

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