Form pairs, facing one another about half a metre apart.
To start, both people close their eyes.
On an agreed signal, each person is entitled to do one of four things:
– Open their right eye only;
– Open their left eye only;
– Open both eyes; or
– Keep both eyes shut.
Each person aims to match the action of the other as many times in a row as possible.
No forms of communication – verbal or non-verbal – are permitted between co-partners.
Allow 1 to 2 minutes of attempts, then swap partners.
How To Play Narrative
Winker is a great ‘filler’ activity, ie don’t count on more than ten minutes of willing, useful participation.
Form pairs and ask each person to face one another, approximately half a metre (18′) apart.
To start, instruct each person to close their eyes. Both of them.
At this point, one person provides an appropriate starting signal, such “1, 2, 3.” When ready, both partners prepare to do one of four things:
Open their right eye only;
Open their left eye only;
Open both eyes; or
Keep both eyes shut.
The object for each partnership is to produce the matching action, ie one person does the same thing with their eyes as their partner. Ideally, each partnership aims to perform a match as many times in a row as possible, ie each person winks, blinks or stares at the same time.
The key, of course, is to achieve this result with no forms of communication – verbal or non-verbal – between co-partners whatsoever. That means no talking, head jerks, finger spelling, animal sounds, etc. Just pure, existential awareness, and repetition.
Once a rhythm has been found, invite people to swap partners, and continue until it’s time to move on to another activity. Depending on the group’s simpatico, it may be sooner than you think.
Practical Leadership Tips
From a sequencing perspective, don’t use Winker as an ‘introductory’ activity. Playing an eye-contact game like Winker is much more successful when previous play and sharing time together has been experienced.
Recommended, if you don’t hear anything after a couple seconds (with both eyes closed,) open your eyes and check that your partner is still standing in front of you!
Apparently, some people can’t operate one eye at a time. As Karl Rohnke (originator of this exercise) suggests – inform these people that this apparent disability is actually an indication of having outstanding peripheral vision. That’s not true, but it might make them feel better for the short duration of the game.
Let the participants do their own thing, don’t hover. It will draw a more unconscious, playful manner.
Out of Ten: Remove the option to keep both eyes closed. Play ten quick rounds and keep a tally of how many rounds with no matches are recorded.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
If possible, divide your group into teams of two people (randomly?) and allocate them to their own breakout room. With their faces glued relatively close to their screens, the game is played as normal. Allocate approx 2 minutes of play and then return everyone to the primary room. Repeat as required, perhaps in new (random) pairs.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Have you noticed those moments when you happen to catch the eye of a complete stranger as you walk past each other? You look away, right? And then what do you do? [invite a few responses…] Yes, that’s right – immediately, you look back to see if they are still looking at you, and the often are! Well, we’re going to play a little game that amplifies these occasions…
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 partner game:
What did you feel playing this game?
Were you comfortable looking directly into the eyes of another person? How did you respond?
How did it feel when you both stared at the other with both eyes open?
Why do we feel uncomfortable looking into the eyes of another person?
How might this experience become more comfortable?
The inspiration for Winker, and many more quick and fun games, was sourced from the following publication: