Stephanie Ruder, one of our readers who is a coach and a trainer living in Switzerland, recently sent me an email about the importance of people taking personal responsibility. Here's an adaptation of the Envelopes framegame that Stephanie may find useful in helping her participants explore this important concept.
To explore alternative reactions to everyday hassles.
- Hassle Envelopes. Write a common hassle on the front side of an envelope. (Example: Stuck in a traffic jam.) Prepare as many different envelopes as there are teams.
- Response cards. Four index cards for each team.
- Pens or pencils
Organize participants. Divide participants into 4 to 6 teams of 3 to 7 members. Teams should be approximately the same size.
Brief participants. Explain the concept of taking personal responsibility. Although we cannot control what is happening in the real world, we can change our reactions to the event. For example, when we are stuck in a traffic jam with cars crawling at a very slow speed because of a highway accident, we can use the slowed-down pace to make telephone calls to our friends. The secret is to stop feeling like a victim and change our beliefs and assumptions and find some meaningful opportunity in the situation that confronts us.
Create some examples. Ask participants to brainstorm alternative reactions to getting stuck in traffic. Follow up by asking participants to give other examples of everyday hassles. Take one of them and challenge participants to generate positive reactions to these negative events.
Distribute the supplies. Give one hassle envelope and four index cards to each team.
Conduct the first round. Ask team members to discuss the hassle on the envelope they received and to identify how they could respond to it in several different positive ways. Tell team members to write short sentences describing these reactions on an index card. Announce a time limit of 3 minutes and encourage the teams to work rapidly. Explain that the teams' reaction cards will eventually be evaluated in terms of both the number and the quality of the positive alternatives.
Conclude the first round. After 3 minutes, blow the whistle and announce the end of the first round. Ask each team to place its reaction card (the index card with its positive alternatives) inside the envelope and pass the envelope, unsealed, to the next team. Warn the teams not to open the envelope they receive.
Conduct the second round. Ask teams to read the hassle on the envelope they received, but not to look at the alternatives listed on the reaction card inside. Tell the teams to list positive alternatives related to the hassle on a new reaction card. After 3 minutes, blow the whistle and ask teams to place the response card inside the envelope and pass it to the next team.
Conduct more rounds. Conduct two more rounds of the game using the same procedure.
Conduct the evaluation round. Start the fifth round just as you did the previous rounds. However, tell teams that they do not have to write any more positive alternatives to the hassle specified on the front of the card. Instead, teams must evaluate and synthesize the four reaction cards inside the envelope. They do this by reviewing the different cards, selecting the top five positive alternatives, and writing them on a flip chart paper.
Debrief the participants. Assemble participants back in their seats. Invite them to briefly comment on the patterns among the positive alternatives. Also ask them to discuss the similarities that can be found among positive alternatives related to different hassles. Ask the participants to identify the hassle for which it was the most difficult to come up with suitable alternatives.
Carry out follow-up activities. Collect all the envelopes and cards for use as examples during future sessions.
Not enough time? Announce tight time limits. For example, allow only two minutes for each round. Play only two rounds of the game before conducting the evaluation round. Eliminate the evaluation round. After evaluation, proceed directly to debriefing.
Too few players? Conduct the game among individual players. All you need is a group of three participants. If necessary, play the game twice, using two different sets of hassle envelopes.
Too many players? Divide the large group of participants into three or more subgroups. Have each subgroup divide itself into teams and play the game in a parallel fashion.