Fluency Cards

The ability to quickly recognize and classify other people's behaviors and to rapidly come up with appropriate responses is a fundamental requirement for mastering any interpersonal skill. We have designed card games to help participants to become more fluent and flexible with these competencies. We play these games with Fluency Card decks.

What's a Fluency Card deck?

We sell Fluency Card decks on more than 20 different topics in our online store. Alternatively, you can make your own card deck based on the description below.

Each Fluency Card deck contains 52 cards just like a regular deck of playing cards. Each card has a playing card designation (such as 5 of Spades). In addition, the cards contain instructions that specify a task to be completed:

  • Spade cards are used in List games. Each of these cards contains a word or a phrase that identifies a specific category.
  • Club cards are used in Compare games. Each of these cards contains a pair of concepts.
  • Heart cards are used in Draw games. Each of these cards contains a concept.
  • Diamond cards are used in Act games. Each of these cards contains a roleplay scenario.

There are different ways of playing with Fluency Cards. The manual (which you can download for free as a PDF) specifies one. The following story specifies another.


Let's pretend that you and four other players are playing a Fluency Cards game on the topic of giving feedback.

Matt, the youngest member of your playgroup, is selected to be the first judge. He shuffles the deck of Fluency Cards and places them face down in the middle of the table. He turns the top card face up and shows it to the others. The message on the card reads, “List different types of feedback.”

You and all the other players independently write three items that belong to the category of types of feedback. This is what you write on a piece of paper:

  • Praise
  • Nagging
  • A numerical score

After a suitable pause, Matt collects all three pieces of paper, mixes them up, and places them in front of him. After a few seconds of studying the responses, he announces that he has a winner. He reads the three items from the winning entry: positive feedback, negative feedback, and neutral feedback. You are not impressed by this list but you remember that the judge's decisions are final.

Matt asks who wrote these items. Diane raises her hand. Matt gives the card to Diane, who places it in front of her.


Since you are seated next to Matt, it is your turn to be the judge. You take the top card. It is a diamond card and it contains this roleplay scenario:

  • Your Role: Manager
  • Other Role: Your Manager
  • Situation: Your manager has been going around you and giving orders to your subordinates without telling you. Provide constructive feedback.

You give instructions to the players: Each person writes down two or three sentences that would begin an effective feedback conversation.

You pause while the other players write their responses on pieces of paper. When they are all done, you collect pieces of paper, mix them up, and study the responses:

  1. If you have a few minutes, I need your advice. My employees are somewhat confused about the mixed messages from you and me.
  2. I appreciate your trying to help me by talking to my subordinates. However, this creates a problem. Do you have time to discuss it with me?
  3. I don't like the way you are bypassing me and interfering with my team. Please don't talk to my employees without checking with me first.
  4. I need your help in solving a problem with my team. You and I need to set up a procedure for asking the team members to do different things.

You feel that you could have come up with a better response than any of these. However, since you have to pick the best among these four, you select response #2. This was written by Jason, so you give him the card.


In the next round, it is Jason's turn to be the judge. He picks up the top card and this is what it says:

Compare positive feedback and flattery.

This is what you write on your piece of paper:

Similarity: Both concepts involve one person talking to another about a performance.

Difference: Positive feedback objectively identifies specific behaviors. Flattery contains exaggerated and insincere statements.

After a suitable pause, Jason collects the four pieces of paper and studies the responses. He reads the winning response—and it is yours. Jason gives you the card as a token of your victory.


It is Bruno's turn to be the judge. He picks up the card with this message:

Draw micromanagement

Bruno asks all of you to draw a picture that is directly associated with this concept. He announces that the artistic quality of the picture is not important. It's the connection between the picture and the concept of micromanagement that matters.

After thinking a little while, you draw a picture of a microscope and a pointing finger. Bruno collects everyone's pieces of paper and studies the pictures. He selects a picture of a person pushing a boulder and another person in a suit watching the boulder pusher and doing nothing to help. You do not see the connection between the picture and the concept of micromanagement, but apparently Bruno does.

Diane is the artist and she collects the card. This is her second card.

The game continues

It is Kris's turn to be the judge next and she turns over another hearts card with a drawing task. During the subsequent rounds of the game, everyone gets two chances to be the judge.

The game is played for 20 minutes. When the timer goes off, everyone counts the number of cards he or she won. It turns out that Kris has three cards and is the winner. You join the others to applaud her come-from-behind victory.