This next exercise it’s going to involve you with your partner, you can stay with your same partner, so Erin if you don’t mind you can be my partner.
So we’re standing side to side with each other, I’d just like you to clasp hands with each other as if you’re holding hands walking down the street or in towards the sunset, whatever.
And here’s the task, your task is once you have made contact with your partner, is to touch the back of your own hand, this part here for me and that part there for Erin, against your opponent’s hip as often as possible.
Okay, so you’re going to have your feet up against each other. There’s a bit of a gap between the two of you and the object is to touch the back off your hand against their hip as much as possible and your hand against my hip as much as possible.
You have about twenty seconds in which to create as large a score for each of you as possible. Are you ready? You start when you’re ready, you probably got everything you need to know. And GO!
(Partner try to tag each other’s hip in Hip Tag)
(You’re not even trying.)
I am, it’s my left arm. Ten more seconds.
Let’s do a quick survey, so for example, who had sort of maybe one or two or three tags with the back of the hand? You got about three or four.
Six! Alright, over here?
(I don’t know we weren’t counting.)
(A good amount.)
A good amount. Over here?
(I’m a righty, she’s a lefty.)
Three or four. And over here?
Seventy-two! How did you get seventy-two?
Oh, so what do you mean?
(We went for the highest possible touches.)
Great, let’s just rewind the video, let’s say. And come back to what I actually invited you to do. Is that I asked you to touch the back of your hand on your partner’s hip as often as possible.
(That’s why you weren’t trying.)
What could it look like?
(Mark and Erin’s hands tag back and forth quickly as if playing Hip Tag.)
Which is where you got your seventy-two from I imagine. Which is also the reason I didn’t answer your question.
And so when we hear score points, all we hear is A versus B. We missed everything else. It’s a bit like when you heard, well my P.E. teacher said “Pick a partner,” I heard find someone who likes you.
There’s that little inner voice, and we’re dealing with that groups with that all the time. So a big part of your preparation is (a) be aware of your language. What you say can be potent, even when you’ve said the right words it may not necessarily have prepared your group.
So I sensed your question Randy was exactly that and I knew everyone had everything they needed to know because I presented it enough now. I picked my words carefully because otherwise I wreck it in terms of what actually needs to come out of it.
So that’s great and again it’s not a wrong or a right, but understand you get a different outcome. So in the world of would you rather be at seventy-two, or three or four. Not wrong or right, but one has clearly a higher score than the other. Yep.
How To Play Narrative
Ask your group to form into pairs (see Getting Into Pairs for some novel ideas,) standing side by side with their partner, holding hands.
Instruct each pair that they are about to engage in a quick activity which, as individuals, their mission is to cause the back of their partner’s hand (that part which is closest to your own hip) to touch your hip as often as is possible.
Naturally, your partner is trying to do the same thing with the back of your hand against their hip.
That’s about it, not much else required – and suddenly announce “GO.”
Let the action run for say 10 – 15 seconds, no more. What I expect you’ll see is one of two outcomes.
Typically the most common result, will reflect a tense, almost feverish hive of activity as each person ‘competes’ valiantly to force the back of their partner’s hand to touch their hip. This is good, and if you have been careful in your briefing, will create lots of energy conducive to a fun time, not to mention a valuable debrief later (if intended.)
What may emerge (but not always,) will uncover a relatively sedate-looking partnership simply moving their clasped hands back and forth, back and forth as fast as they can between their respective hips.
Before you explore what this difference means, I suggest you quickly survey the results of your group to hear some typical aggregate scores, starting with the very competitive partnerships. Hip tag scores of one, two, or three are not uncommon.
Then ask one of the more demure partners for their score – it will probably be something like 40 or 50, or something so large, you can almost hear the jaws of the competitive folks hit the ground. Your group is now ready for a quick lesson.
So, who is right? Who are the winners?
As much as this exercise is a fun energiser, it is also a wonderful catalyst for discussing win–win scenarios and the benefits of collaboration. You can explore these topics further in the Leadership Tips tab below.
Practical Leadership Tips
This hip tag exercise beautifully illustrates how quickly we can often view a given situation with a ‘win-lose’ mentality, yet if framed collaboratively, can turn into a positive ‘win-win’ outcome. If you go back now and re-read my instructions in the Narrative tab, you’ll find that I never did say that you had to score more than your partner. But the simple pitting of one person against another is a sure-fire way to reach a competitive outcome.
Further to above, discuss the impact our ability to re-frame our circumstances can have on our performance, as much as our (group and individual) lives.
In the beginning, observe a common awkwardness about how two partners holding hands prefer to orient their hands. Stereotypically speaking, boys prefer to face their palm backwards (the ‘taking’ position,) while women tend to prefer the ‘giving’ position with their palm facing forwards. A preference one way or another means absolutely nothing, but observing this odd phenomenon is fun, and goes some ways towards explaining why some people have particular preferences for how they hold hands. And, if nothing else, you will have invited your group to laugh.
You could integrate Hip Tag as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to understand their emotions, thoughts and values and how these influence behaviour in different situations.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Linking Feelings, Values & Thoughts
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
As described in the Leadership Tips tab, the powerful metaphor about mindsets (competition v cooperation) makes this exercise ideal for any conversation about behavioural norms. In the context of productivity, a lot more often gets done when people work together rather than compete against one another. To this end, you may consider presenting Hip Tag and then leading a conversation about the impact of certain mindsets on the group’s performance. The questions described in the Reflection Tips tab could be useful starting points for you, in addition to:
How would you describe the mindset of our group?
What is an example of a behaviour that is borne out of a positive or growth mindset?
Can you think of a behaviour or cultural norm within our group that reflects a fixed mindset?
In what ways are our individual or collective mindsets limiting our success?
Competition v Collaboration: Present the activity to two (physically separate) groups. The first group is instructed as above, while the second group (whom cannot hear or see the first group engage) is given perhaps a more collaborative briefing. Excellent opportunity to reflect on the difference our language can make.
Take a look at Blob Tag and Dead Ant Tag to explore two more tag-type activities which reflect the benefits of collaboration.
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Useful Framing Ideas
It’s been said that most people can be divided into one of two types – those that view a situation as ‘glass half-full,’ and those who will view the same situation as ‘glass half-empty.’ Turn to a person next to you right now, and share with them which type of person you think you are? [allow time for conversation…] There are many factors which influence our perspective at any point in time, but our upbringing, culture, language and knowledge all make a significant contribution. This next activity will illustrate this principle in a very simple way…
We rarely think about it, but how each of us views the world around us is significantly influenced by the lens or filters through which we view it. For example, imagine this ‘picture’ in your mind for a moment. It’s an overcast day, and an old man is sitting on a park bench which is surrounded by thousands of fallen autumn leaves. He has a long white beard and is rugged up against the cold, sitting by himself. [allow a moment…] So, what did you see? Hands up those who saw beauty, peacefulness and calm? Who saw loneliness, despair and sadness? Of course, there are many perspectives, and everyone one of them is determined by the lens through which we view this image. None of these views are necessarily wrong or right, but they all have an impact on our performance. A further example of how the lens we view the world impacts our results will be experienced in this next exercise…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this fun and meaningful tag game:
What did you hear or think when the activity was first introduced to you?
Did it occur to you that this exercise could be played in at least two different ways?
How did you define success? Why?
Which result was better – a low competitive score or a large collaborative score? Why?
Where else in our lives could we benefit from changing the lens through which we view certain events?
The inspiration for Hip Tag, and many more fun and meaningful partner tag games, was sourced from the following publication: