Form a circle, either standing or seated in chairs (not including you.)
To start, stand in the centre of the circle.
Your goal is to invite someone from the circle to leave their seat by making them smile.
To achieve this goal, approach and face one person at a time and say the words “IF YOU LOVE ME HONEY, SMILE.”
If the candidate smiles, they are invited to swap roles with you in the middle.
If the candidate does not smile, you must approach a new candidate, and try again.
Continue playing for many rounds, involving multiple people to try their luck in the middle.
How To Play Narrative
This game is best played when people are seated in a circle, either on the floor or in seats. People could stand, but they will invariably get tired very quickly and eventually submit to the ground anyway.
Whichever way you choose to go, it is important that everyone can see each other from where they sit/stand, so that they can comfortably witness the silliness that is about to unfold before them.
Everyone has a seat, except for you – you are standing in the middle of the circle. Your objective – as the only person without a seat – is to encourage anyone else sitting in the circle to give up their seat for you.
To achieve this noble goal, you will attempt to encourage one or more people to smile after you have crooned the words “IF YOU LOVE ME, HONEY, SMILE.”
In most cases, the un-seated person will slide up to some unsuspecting person in the circle, possibly kneel in front of them, take their hand, look them straight in the eye, swoon and so on.
If the seated person has not already broken out with a smirk or a smile, then it’s time to apply the all-too-lethal and suitably ‘breathy’ expression of “IF YOU LOVE ME, HONEY, SMILE.”
This whole exchange may take anything from 10 to 30 seconds to undertake. Naturally, reasonable levels of decorum are expected of the smoocher – for most groups, you don’t need to say this, but you may need to adjudicate.
If the seated person exposes a smile in the midst of all this attention, then they are asked to give up their seat for their ‘honey,’ and the next round begins – with this new person in the middle.
However, if the seated person remains strong, and resists the urge to smile after the affectionate spiel has been dispensed, they get to keep their seat, and the unseated (not to mention unloved) person moves on to approach a new candidate.
Play for as long as you feel love is in the air. Ideally, multiple people will have had their turn in the spotlight to have some fun in the middle of the circle.
Practical Leadership Tips
This game is a sure-fire classic which generates lots of laughter, and can make even the most cheerless person smile. But, it is necessarily silly – so consider your sequence accordingly. It’s best suited for groups that already know each other very well.
If possible, I strongly recommend that you ask for a volunteer to start in the middle, rather than you demonstrate how to play the game. It’s much more fun watching someone else take on this role without being given any ideas as to how it should be done (because there is no way that it ‘should be done.’)
For young groups, and possibly some adults, you must keep a keen eye out for inappropriate behaviours. This game is extremely fun, but in the wrong hands, could very quickly plant the seeds of distrust and embarrassment. As soon as you sense someone is about to cross ‘the line,’ stop the action immediately. If necessary, provide a few healthy-interaction guidelines in advance, such as no touching, using G-rated language and no sexual innuendo.
You could integrate If You Love Me, Honey, Smile as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to manage their emotions, thoughts and behaviours effectively in different situations and to achieve goals.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
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
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits to one’s wellbeing of enjoying a good laugh.
In a small way, you could argue that the effort required to motivate another person to smile (or not smile yourself) may speak to the benefits of understanding and managing one’s emotional intelligence. That said, this is not the sort of activity I would ordinarily recommend when there are so many more you could explore for this purpose.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which If You Love Me, Honey, Smile could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
No Touch Policy: For a more challenging predicament, the unseated person is not permitted to touch anyone.
No Teeth Policy: Both people must never show their teeth when they talk, ie they curl their lips over their teeth as they speak. If glistening teeth are revealed by either party, the concordant penalty is applied.
Take a look at Veggie Veggie to play another hilarious, fun group game that discourages smiling.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Have you heard the expression, poker face? It means someone who finds it very hard to control what they are thinking, or how they feel as an outward expression on their face. It is believed that the stronger your poker face is, the more competitive you’ll be. So, the question must be asked, do you have a strong poker face? If not, then you may struggle in this next exercise…
Everyone wants to be loved. It makes us feel good, and helps us to feel more confident and resilient in the face of adversity. But what if you had to hide your true emotions, and could not reveal how happy you really were? Would you be able to do this? Let’s find out…
One of the most evocative, happy circumstances a person could ever imagine is having someone they love get down on their knees and propose to them. It happens in the movies all the time, but on occasions, it happens in real life too. Imagine if this happened to you? You’d have the biggest smile on your face, right? Well, if this is the case, you might struggle with this next activity…
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 thoroughly entertaining group game:
On a scale of 1 to 10, how strong generally speaking would you describe your determination not to smile?
What strategies did you employ to not smile? Were you successful?
What caused your ‘poker face’ to crack?
What did you notice develop in the group as the activity progressed?
Do you think the skill of determination can be practiced? If so, how?
The inspiration for If You Love Me, Honey, Smile, and many more entertaining, community-building group games, was sourced from the following publication: