Step inside the circle, and face your left-hand side neighbour.
Shaking hands, say your own name, and your neighbour says their name.
You repeat your neighbour’s name, and they say your name, then stop shaking.
Move to your right, and repeat the process with the next person in the circle.
When you reach the third person in the circle, the first person you greeted steps inside the circle and initiates a greeting with their left-hand side neighbour.
Process continues, until everyone has greeted all others in the circle at least once.
Ultimately, everyone returns to their original spot in the circle.
Video Transcript for Me You You Me
presented by Mark Collard
Part of the work that I’ve done in the past outside of my working life has worked as an actor, and as a voice over artist, and I went to a class once that you’d be familiar with called improvisation, or improv.
Basically creating stories on the spot, you don’t have any of the information other than you just whatever you can come up with at the time.
So I go to this eight week course and we are standing in a group probably slightly larger than this. And it’s like ‘Hi my name is Louise…’, I was standing where Julia is, … but before we get started it’s really important that we learn some names.
So we’ve got a few games to play. So, of course, Mr. Games over here thinks, like you know how to play games? So I’ve already partly switched off, and then she describes the activity that we’re all familiar with where one person starts by saying their name, then the next person says their name, and then you repeat it.
So it goes A, AB, ABC, ABCD, all the way around thinking oh man I like last in the line. I’m going to have to remember twenty-six names in a row. I hate this program already. I’ve shut off.
And then something happened about thirty seconds later. This is actually what occurred. It started with their own name, and I’ll say Mark, and then you say your name…
Good start. I’d then repeat the name that I just heard, which is Julia, and now you say my name.
Beautiful, note that. Now on paper it looks very simple. I swear if you read it in the book you’d turn it over and look for something more interesting. Note what’s about to happen.
Excellent, I move onto the next person. Mark.
You had to think about that didn’t you?
Beautiful, now I get to this point and now Julia you swing around and you start the process.
(Mark and Julia are completing the activity at the same time.)
Excellent, good job. Keep it going. Let’s start over here.
Beautiful, swing around Dahwa.
Good job. I don’t know about you, but very quickly I am reminded of those awkward social moments. How often, perhaps even at this conference, even today, you’ve actually met someone, heard their name, and literally three seconds later, it’s as if you’ve never heard it.
And you’re struggling to remember what it was you just heard, and then of course in here I gave you the permission to actually laugh about that because you actually just heard the name and then it’s like I don’t know what to say now. You even forgot your own name there for a while.
How To Play Narrative
Start by asking your group to form a circle.
Using your example as a demonstration, step in front of the person who was standing to your left. Shake this person’s hand, and simply say your own name. Nothing else, no “How do you do,” or “My name is…,” simply state your name.
Next, whilst still shaking hands, instruct your partner to say his or her name. Pretty easy so far, but it’s not over. Here comes the fun part.
The person who first introduced him or her self (you in the case of this demonstration,) now repeats (says) the name of the person they are greeting (you’re still shaking hands by the way.) Again, nothing more, just repeat their name. And, to finish, your partner repeats (says) your name back to you.
That’s it, you can now unclasp sweaty hands, and move on to the next person to your right in the circle.
So, if I were starting, and the name of my left-hand side neighbour was Ruby, our exchange would sound like this – “MARK,” “RUBY,” “RUBY,” “MARK.”
This exact process of back-and-forth greetings continues with each greeter (you, initially) moving to his or her right, and shaking the hands of the next person in the circle. And, as they do, this movement causes the outside of the circle (which has just been greeted) to follow behind the first person (you) effectively curling inside itself.
For example, by the time you get to the third person in the circle, the first person you greeted will have joined you inside the circle and started to greet the second person in line. Get it?
In essence, everyone gets to walk on the inside of the circle and greet everyone once, and then resume their original position in the circle. At which point, every other person will greet them a second time as these folks step inside the circle and return to their original spot in the circle.
Trust me, this really is very simple, it’s just not very easy to comprehend when you are only readings words off a page.
And I can almost guarantee, inside the time it takes for the first few exchanges to occur, the group will erupt in guffaws as one or more people mix up their names. It’s astonishing how often people say the wrong name at the wrong time.
Practical Leadership Tips
In my experience, this exercise works best with groups of between 8 and 15 or 20 people (max.) This group size strikes a nice balance between generating the necessary energy to make this fun, but not too many whereby some people get bored waiting their turn.
You’d be mistaken to think that this exercise was all about learning names. Yes, some folks may pick up a few names, but it’s all about taking subtle risks, sharing and above all, laughing. Interacting with everyone in the group is healthy too.
With especially large groups (see Variations tab below,) as the two tails of the inner circle meet and start to pass each other, one of two events may occur – (a) the action stops because no one knows how to deal with the chaos, or (b) the group will battle on trying to successfully greet everyone per the rules. Either way, it doesn’t matter, provided you generated lots of non-threatening interaction and laughter.
Large Group Twist: Got a large group of say 30 or 50 people? Two options (a) you can split this number into several smaller groups (and continue as above,) or (b) if you would prefer to keep them all together, start the initial greetings to the left and right direction of the break in the circle at the same time. That is, you get one ‘snake’ started off to your left, and then after a few exchanges, leave the head of that snake and start a new one on the right-hand side of the circle from whence you were standing. The two snakes will eventually meet in the middle and collide, and chaos will reign. But that’s OK, some groups will persist to make it work, others will just look to you and say “HELP!” Just smile.
Name Change: Exchange the use of a name with something interesting about yourself, eg honest, fun, thirty-two, Brazilian, etc. That was not meant to sound like a personal ad, but you get the idea. So, it may sound like “BUFFED,” “FINNISH,” “FINNISH,” “BUFFED.”
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Useful Framing Ideas
How often have you just been introduced to someone new, or that person told you their name, and literally three seconds later, you realise you’ve forgotten their name? It’s as if you never even heard it! Embarrassing, I know! And the truth is, most of us would prefer to avoid that person (for the rest of the party, or work shift, etc) than face the ignominy of fessing up and admitting to have forgotten that person’s name. This exercise says it’s OK to forget someone’s name, and that it’s OK to ask someone to repeat their name to remind you.
Most people are inclined to suggest that they are not very good at remembering people’s names. I don’t think this is true, but most of us would rather lower people’s expectations than face the embarrassment of getting a name wrong. This exercise re-frames this awkward social phenomenon by saying that it’s OK to ask someone to repeat their name, because this interaction says “I care to know your name”, and not that “I’m stupid and forgot.”