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This is like classic children’s game of Telephone, but with people’s real-life stories. This is important because listening skills are essential for developing greater empathy and compassion. Indeed, it’s an essential part of all social and emotional learning.
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Talk to the participants about what they believe to be the lessons of this game. If, indeed, the stories changed dramatically, why is that? (Presumably, after the first round, when they knew the trick of the game, they were trying to listen more closely. Yet still it’s probable that the story changed in numerous ways.)
It’s like the children’s game of Telephone. People tell each other stories. Yet we all know how often people don’t really listen to each other. They often are just waiting for others to finish speaking, so that they can contribute their own brilliant idea. Or they are lost in their head, thinking about what they are going to say next. Or they are distracted, thinking about what they are going to do about a problem at home. In other words, we rarely ever truly pay total attention and listen to another. This game will reveal that in a humorous way.
Moreover, this game emphasizes the importance of empathy – of being able to stand in another person’s shoes and take on their perspectives.
Harvard professor Steven Pinker even theorizes that the significant decline in violence around the world over the past several decades is likely correlated to an increase of empathy. As we read books and see films about the lives of people of different cultures, genders, nationalities, and sexual orientations, we are more likely to respect them.
Transformative Action Institute, based on the traditional game
Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature