As If

Type of Activity: Icebreaker, Conflict Prevention, Bullying Prevention

Props Needed: None

Group Size:   2–100

Directions: Divide your group into pairs.  Begin this activity by letting participants know that you will give them a relationship role to play for the upcoming interaction.  Have the pairs stand about 15 feet apart from one another.  Have them determine which partner will be the ”greeter” and which partner will play out the “role.”  Each interaction is approximately 20–30 seconds in duration. Then announce the first interaction.

Ask your group to greet another person in the room AS IF you are:

  • best friends or long-lost friends

Let this interaction go on for 20–30 seconds.  Afterwards, briefly process what happened in this interaction, what some of the feelings were, and the general mood of the interaction.  Then proceed with another role.  Here are some examples of other roles you could use:

  • college roommates
  • someone you have had a conflict with at work
  • your boss
  • cousins
  • someone you don’t hang out with normally
  • your teacher
  • the author of your favorite book
  • a friend you had a conflict with
  • someone you saw being a bully on the playground
  • the President of the United States
  • a classmate/colleague you are intimidated by
  • a famous musician
  • someone who does not speak English (or the dominant language of the group)
  • a favorite actor or actress
  • someone interviewing for a job

You can come up with as many different AS IF scenarios as you wish.  This is a great follow-up activity to the Handshakes activity.

When introducing this exercise, tell the group that there may be periods of uncomfortable interaction, or there may be periods of joy, anger, or frustration. You will find that the way people greet one another is open to an incredible amount of interpretation.  For example, just about everyone greets their best friend with a hug or a handshake, and it typically involves some shouting and a lot of asking "what’s up?"  However, a greeting between someone you saw bully someone else can vary greatly. Some people will confront the behavior, while others will ignore it.  By the time we see folks introducing themselves to the President, we observe many different approaches ... some are thrilled, others are rude, and some pretend to be violent. My response is "really?"  That is REALLY how you would great the President?  My comments following this activity are always the same, and they typically go something like this: "Would you agree that everyone we greeted today is human?  Is it safe to say that all humans deserve the same respect in terms of being polite to one another? This activity provides examples of how our attitude and belief systems affect our ability to be respectful of one another. Does that make sense?"

Also, allowing the participants to practice how to greet someone they have had a conflict with can be good experience for the future.  Have the pairs greet one another as they normally would when they are in a conflict with someone.  Then have them practice a second time how they would like to greet someone they are in a conflict with.  Sometimes practicing a desired behavior in an uncomfortable situation can help in a later instance when a conflict arises.

Debriefing Topics:

  • What did you notice?
  • Who was uncomfortable with some of the early “as if” situations?
  • What about the later introductions?
  • What did you notice about non-verbal body language with the different roles?
  • How did your attitude change during the exercise?
  • Would you agree that everyone we “greeted” today is human?  Is it safe to say that all humans deserve the same respect in terms of being polite to one another?

For original write up purchase "Setting the Conflict Compass" by Cummings & Anderson.  

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