Projective Technique: Think Say Diagram

Skilled qualitative research specialists often use projective techniques to get beyond top-of-mind information, move past the first thing that comes to someone’s mind and really go after some deeper insights. The “Think Say Diagram” is a classic: respondents are asked to jot down what they’d be saying about any given topic … and enhance it with what they were thinking at the same time. Some facilitators, like myself, have added a “feel” component to the exercise … because the language of the heart is often where true connections are made.

I decided to share this with you today because I recently used this technique on myself during a time of personal reflection. It worked equally well to bring me to a self-realization. Here’s why I used it:

At least once during the course of any given day of focus groups, I find myself saying aloud, “I love my job.” Now I’ve heard other qualitative researchers say the same thing. So I started to ponder the truth for me behind the statement.

At first I would have attributed the passion I feel for moderating to the fact that I get paid to listen to people talk about their lives. That’s fantastic enough, isn’t it? But I knew there was more to it than that.

The aforementioned projective exercise helped me realized that I love my job for two deeper, more personal, more meaningful reasons. I love my job because:

(1) I’m good at it. There, I said it, I’m a good moderator. I’ve thought it time and time again when I get respondents to open up and share things about themselves and/or their product usage that that might be difficult for them to admit. After this exercise, I was able to attribute my skill to some very tangible realities (as you can see if the thought bubble on the Think Say Diagram on the right).

(2) I have an emotional need to connect with others and moderating helps me meet that need. It’s true. I love the warmth I feel when people open up to me during an interview. That level of sharing brings me deep personal satisfaction. Once in simple brand insight groups, a bride-to-be opened up about her previously abusive relationship. In new product development groups, an adolescent girl shared with me the details of her eating disorder. In advertising testing groups, a mother revealed how her scare with cancer changed her perceptions and behaviors for life. I’m touched deeply by the humanity of people’s shared experiences.

So … the next time you hear me utter, “I love my job,” you’ll really know why. And the next time you have a project that requires taking the conversation to a deeper level, getting at thoughts and feelings behind some statements that are made … try a Think Say Diagram.

As usual, I welcome your comments below. And if you’d like to discuss the above technique and how you can use it in an upcoming project, please feel free to contact me anytime.