Hostile and Painful

This activity makes use of a creativity technique called double reversal. It captivates the participants’ attention by starting with an unusual task.


Invite the participants to brainstorm ideas for conducting hostile and painful interactions with the local people in a foreign country. Later, invite the participants to flip these negative ideas into positive ones for achieving friendly and pleasant interactions with foreigners.


To generate ideas for friendly and pleasant interactions with the local people in a foreign country.


  • Minimum: 3
  • Maximum: Any number
  • Best: 16 to 30


15 to 20 minutes


Here are some suggestions for mentally rehearsing this activity:

Reflect on the brainstorming task. During the activity, you jolt the participants with an unexpected brainstorming task: During a trip to a foreign country, how would you ensure that your interactions with the local people result in hostile and painful outcomes? Take a minute to put yourself in a participants’ place and think about this negative task.

Prepare sample responses. Come up with a few sample ideas. You will use these samples later to get the participants started.

Here are five sample ideas:

  1. Talk about corruption among the local politicians.
  2. Give gratuitous suggestions on how the local people could behave in more responsible manner.
  3. Insist that everyone should talk to you in your own language.
  4. Complain about the lack of hospitality and customer service.
  5. Point out that their flag is unattractive and meaningless.

Practice flipping the response. Take one of the ideas and flip it around so it becomes a strategy for achieving the opposite goal of conducting friendly and pleasant encounters. Be flexible while doing this. Try to come up with more than one flipped response to each idea.

Here is the original response:

Insist that everyone should talk to you in your own languages.

Here are seven flipped responses:

  1. Learn to use a few friendly conversational phrases in the local language.
  2. Speak in a common language that both of you know.
  3. Add to your vocabulary of the local language with the help of everyone you meet.
  4. Comment on the pleasant sound of the local language.
  5. Ask for suggestions on how you could improve your mastery of the local language.
  6. Ask for feedback on your use of the local language.
  7. Do not be shy about making mistakes in the local language.


Brief the participants. Explain that you are going to present an unusual brainstorming task. Encourage the participants to take the topic seriously and come up with as many alternative ideas as possible.

Announce the scenario. Give these instructions in your own words:

Imagine that you are visiting a foreign country.

How can you make sure that your interactions with the local people are hostile and painful? What could you do to make sure that your foreign trip was horrible, both to you and the others?   

Invite ideas from the participants. Ask them to shout out their responses. Repeat each idea offered by the participants.

Flip the ideas. Point out that the opposite the ideas offered by the participants will result in the opposite outcome of friendly and pleasant interactions.

Give examples. Take one of the negative ideas and demonstrate how it could be flipped 180 degrees to become a positive one. Point out that the same negative idea could be flipped in many different ways to generate several positive ideas. Invite the participants to shout out positive variations of the same negative idea.

Flip other negative ideas. Announce other ideas from the original brainstorm and encourage the participants to flip them into positive ones.

Identify three powerful ideas. Invite each participant to work with a partner and come up with a collection of three positive ideas to create friendly and pleasant interactions in a foreign country. Announce a suitable time limit.

Present the collections. Invite a random participant to present the three ideas selected by the partnership. Ask how many other participants have included one or more of these ideas in their collection. Continue by inviting more partnerships to share their collections.