What I’d like you to imagine now, that first of all, you’re not among this group these are not people you know, and you are about to step into an elevator. Think of what normally happens when you step into an elevator. There’s some amazing attraction to the numbers that you know that blink above the door and all that other stuff.
So I would like you to imagine that you personally have just entered into an elevator.
And whatever that air is, that elevator air as I call that, that atmosphere I’d like you to imagine to get from where you are in the circle now to the other side as if you were in the elevator.
Do whatever you would ordinarily do, which and I think we all have the stereotypical understanding of what that is, move from one side of the circle to the other as if the atmosphere was being inside an elevator. Go.
(Group starts to move)
If you had to describe that atmosphere what would be words you used?
Awkward, lot of eyes up in the air. All that stuff.
It’s quiet, it’s pretty silent yeah.
Now I know you’re putting this on, but I’ve invited you to do that.
So let’s take a step forward now. Let’s imagine that you’re in a car. You’re in your own car and your driving wherever you need to drive. Now there is something about the capsule of safety that a vehicle gives us to be a certain way that often we’re not with other people.
So you’re in your car and you’re basically moving one side of the circle to the other. I’d invite you now to consider to react and respond to other people in the same way you would as if you were in your car.
Now cut short of road rage, but you know you need to get from one side to the other.
Remember these are other people that you may even know as well, so what would you do if your in a car and you saw someone that you know? Go!
(Group start to move around the room)
(Get out of the way dickhead. )
But all of a sudden you have just discovered eighteen of your long lost friends are also at this party. So to get from this side of the circle to the other side of the circle, in the next sort of ten to fifteen seconds, but react and respond to everyone in this room as if they were long lost friends. Go!
(Group happily saying hi and hugging as they move around the room.)
So that is long lost air. Very good.
Now again very quickly words to describe that atmosphere as you crossed for that third time.
A lot more excited. A lot more energy.
(Comfortable, a lot more comfortable.)
A lot more comfortable, yup. Big smiles, it’s fun. Probably comfortable blah, blah, blah all that sort of stuff.
Now, clearly for those last three the elevator air, the highway air, and the long lost air I’ve deliberately invited you to be those sorts of things. So here’s my thought for you at this point is that clearly I’ve invited you to take those things on.
What do you think this exercise has to do with the rest of today? What impact does what we’ve just done right now have on the outcome of what occurs over the next six or seven hours?
Okay so be aware. Okay great thank Mark.
(The way you present yourself. You can either choose to think this is new I am going to go into it like their my friends or you can go in it…)
Great so what’s your name?
Thank you Bree, so great. So you have a choice there. Fantastic!
Other ideas, what else?
(When dealing with a group attitude is big.)
Yeah and who gets to choose that?
You do exactly. Yeah.
Again I’m not here to force you to do anything.
So often you know when I am particularly sometimes working with groups that (a) don’t want to be there or just don’t feel like they’ve got any reason to enjoy the day; that gives them reason. I want to help them understand that they actually have a choice here.
Even if you don’t want to be here the point of the fact is the bus ain’t coming back for six hours to take you home or to take you back to wherever it is you come from. You’ve got a choice.
You can either make it as fun or as enjoyable as you like or not, and either way it is going to be a consequence. You can either be like elevator air and get nothing out of today, or you can choose to be long lost.
I’ll not ask you to be long lost you need to be who you are, but my point is you choose. You get to choose what you choose to take out of this today as an example.
How To Play Narrative
Everyone knows what it means to be in an elevator. You step in, no one makes eye contact, you press the button for your floor. Doors close, and you instinctively glance up at the numbers blinking above the doors as if you’ve forgotten how to count. Moments pass, and you glance up again and can’t believe that you still have 10 floors to go. You can’t wait to get out… you know what it’s like.
Share a little of this common experience with your group, to prepare them for the what’s next. It will often spark a chortle or two, perhaps even a few comments about how awkward this all seems. Which, if this happens, is just perfect, and I recommend you allow it to occur.
Starting with a large circle, invite every person to simply walk to the other side of the circle from where they are standing as if they had just entered an elevator. You can expect very little talking, barely any eye contact, and certainly no interaction.
Having crossed, then ask your group to describe what happened, how it felt, etc. Words and phrases such as cold, awkward, impersonal, quiet, etc, will likely be uttered. There are no wrong answers, you’re just seeking a reflection.
Next, ask everyone to cross the circle again, but this time, imagining that they are in a car driving on the highway. Cutting short of ‘road rage,’ ask everyone to interact with the other ‘road users’ as if they were all in the protective bubble of their motor vehicles.
Again, ask your group to note what they observed and experienced during this second crossing. Words like fast, dangerous, impolite, rude and rushed may be shared this time.
Finally, ask everyone now to cross for a third time, this time as if they were entering a room full of long-lost friends. That is, imagining that every person inside the circle is a very good friend.
Again, after crossing, ask your group to describe what happened. Instinctively, your group is very likely to have gone out of their way to interact with one another, so words like warm, fun, happy, valued, energetic may be shared.
Typically, I confirm that each scenario produced three different results, but I then question why this occurred when I all asked was for each person to cross the circle.
For 99 out of 100 groups, they won’t get it straight away. Eventually, lead your group to the conclusion that there was only one reason there were three different outcomes – everyone chose who they were ‘being’ in each of the three crossings.
You simply made an invitation, but the outcome was profoundly related to the decisions of each person about who they would choose to be during each crossing.
Which brings us to one very important question – which one of you (of the many hundreds of choices you may choose to ‘be’) is going to turn up today?
In essence, this reflection aims to help my group understand the impact of their choices and to connect the impacts of these various choices to the outcomes of my/our program.
It’s all about taking responsibility. The tone of your program is now set, you’re ready to move on.
Practical Leadership Tips
Explore the notion that in each scenario, no-one was forced to ‘be’ a particular way of being. That is, everyone willingly chose to (or not to) assume a particular way of being. Connect this choice with the desired outcome of your program, and the fact that each individual has the power to influence the outcome based on their decisions.
You may add that you will be committed to creating an atmosphere in which everyone will feel ‘safe’ to make appropriate decisions throughout the program. That is, what actually transpires is up to the group.
Often, some members of your group will argue that the outcome of each crossing was determined by me (the facilitator) which is a reasonable presumption, but it’s not correct. As the saying goes, I may be able to lead my horse to water, but I can’t force it to drink. The same is true for the decisions group members make in every moment of my program. I’ll do everything I can to create an atmosphere to encourage group members to make appropriate choices, but I’ll never be able to make their decisions for them.
You could integrate Elevator Air 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:
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
You can learn a lot about how your group by watching how they interact during the various phases of this powerful exercise. Reflective questions are purposefully embedded into the design of Elevator Air, but you could certainly invite your group to focus on certain social and interpersonal skills.
Adding to those described in the Reflection Tips tab, the following questions are useful questions to invite your group to process their experience:
Were we being honest with ourselves and each other in each round? Why or why not?
Describe three examples of social cues that signalled discomfort with any of the traverses.
How did you personally navigate or respond to some of these cues?
How critical to our success was it that we all cooperated?
Is there room for conflicting behaviours? If so, how do we accommodate these needs?
What might this exercise teach us about building positive relationships?
Following on from above, this exercise highlights a powerful psychological understanding that says “the way you play is the way you live your life.” You can lead this exercise in advance of developing your group’s full value agreement and/or after your group has discussed these commitments. The crux of Elevator Air is intimately connected to the success of your group’s efforts to understand and manage their emotions and behaviours. For example, the success of each traversing round is critically linked to the collective decisions of the group to willingly embrace the suggested beliefs and attitudes of each round. This speaks to the group’s process of setting goals as much as the healthy development of the group’s relationships.
Non-Verbal: As above, silently.
New Start: Consider three distinct scenarios related to starting a new job, or school, in regards to how people choose to interact – Awkward, Polite, Enthusiastic. See the Framing Ideas tab for more details.
Take a look at Comfort Zone Circles for another powerful exercise to help you prepare your group to enter challenging environments.
Inventive partner stretch to develop balance & trust.
Quick-movement energiser to teach safety consciousness.
Useful Framing Ideas
You can create countless meaningful metaphors. For example, create three distinct scenarios related to starting a new school or job – (a) Awkward Start – you’re new and you don’t know anyone in the group, (b) Polite Start – you acknowledge and interact politely with others and (c) Wicked Awesome Start – you go out of your way to interact with everyone because you have something to contribute to others.
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 powerful introductory, ice-breaker game:
How was it possible that we achieved three different outcomes?
What made the difference in the outcomes with each crossing?
Who was in control of how you crossed the circle each time? Why?
What is the impact of this understanding on you, the rest of the group and the program?
Easy, Non-Threatening ‘Ice-Breaker’ Session
What You Need:
8+ people, 20 mins
Gotcha– sure-fire game that is guaranteed to generate lots of laughter