Sharing Connections

Type of Activity: Icebreaker

Props Needed: You will need a ball of twine, yarn, or string at least 10 feet (3 meters) in length for every person in the group.  10 people = 100 feet (30 meters).  For groups larger than 20, you should increase the length of yarn to 25 feet (8 meters) per person.

Process: With the group seated in a circle, one person (who happens to be holding a ball of yarn) begins by mentioning various things they enjoy.  For example, they might offer, “I like to ride my mountain bike.  I enjoy cooking.  I like to read.”  When one of these statements rings true for another participant in the group, they hold up both hands, and the person holding the ball of yarn rolls this ball over to them while keeping hold of the very end of the yarn. The second person (now holding the ball of yarn) begins sharing some of the activities they enjoy until another participant holds up their hands.  And so the ball is passed around the group with each participant becoming connected to the other members of their group by the things they have in common. In most cases, group members only catch and roll the ball once.  Each person catching the ball holds onto the string as the ball continues along its path to every other member of the group.

After everyone has caught the ball, the final person must keep sharing information until the starting participant can agree with one of their comments.

Variation: Sharing Frustrations

You can reverse the process (essentially rewinding the ball of string by repeating the activity) by discussing things that frustrate and irritate us.  Ask the group to think about those little things in life that “set them off.”  We call them triggers.  A trigger is that small, sensitive piece of invisible equipment that each of us has within.  Learning what “triggers” others have is an extremely valuable way to reduce the potential for conflict within a group or team. While listening to things that frustrate others, just as before, when a listed situation is shared by another member of the group the ball is passed along the string connecting them.  Each person, when they receive the ball, carefully winds the yarn back into place before passing the ball on to the next person in the connection line. Also see making connections on pg. 37 for no props version.

Debriefing Topics:

  • Why is doing an activity like this important?
  • Name some of the new connections you made or learned in the activity.
  • After sharing some frustrations, what are some behaviors we should avoid to prevent a conflict with another team member?
  • Based on the web of yarn we created here, describe how one frustration can affect more than one person at a time.

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

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