Someone to step forward I would like to show you what this looks like. Brilliant John.
Okay so we are going to use this space over here. Feel free to stand here, but we will use this space over here John.
John, in a moment, but not yet, I am going to ask you to stand out there a couple of metres. And in a moment I will ask you to have your eyes closed.
Okay, here’s what is going to happen, there’s no tricks here and this will happen for everyone as you use this space. My object, over the course of the next fifteen seconds at the most, is to come up to you and tap you on your shoulder. Okay?
It will start when you say, and you’ve got your eyes closed, ‘Come to me’ at which point I know my time has started.
My object is to come up to you as secretly as possible and tap you on the shoulder before the fifteen seconds is elapsed. No one is strictly timing it but we’ll know whether in fact fifteen or more seconds has gone.
However, in the process if you can hear me coming, point and you have three opportunities to say I hear you, and if you point directly at my direction wherever I am, I’m done. I haven’t got there quick enough.
Okay it’ll start when you give me the ‘Come to me’ call.
(Come to me)
(Do I open my eyes?)
(Mark tags John while playing Come To Me)
Alright you get the idea.
I didn’t answer your question because that would have given me away, but during the whole fifteen seconds you keep your eyes closed.
Naturally, as I said there is a little bit of ambient noise here, but in those quiet moments do your best.
Alright spread yourselves out. Takes turns. Have a couple goes each.
Instruct everyone to scatter evenly across the area with plenty of space between partnerships, standing at least 10 metres (33′) away from their partner.
In turn, one person closes their eyes (or puts on a blindfold) and calls “COME TO ME” to their partner. This signal invites the sighted person to creep as quietly as they can up to their ‘blinded’ partner.
The creeping partner has exactly 60 seconds to approach their partner during which time they aim to gently tap their shoulder before their ‘blind’ partner can detect where they are lurking. The jolt of shock from the blindfolded person when their partner makes a successful (albeit, unanticipated) tap is a real hoot.
If the ‘blind’ person believes that they can hear their partner approaching, they can point in the direction (distance notwithstanding) of where they think they are. They are limited to a maximum of five attempts to reveal the whereabouts of their partner.
Upon a successful detection, or successful tap on a shoulder, that round is over, and the pair swap roles.
Practical Leadership Tips
Conducting the activity outdoors is preferred because the under-foot noises make it more difficult for the creeper to approach undetected. A large, solid-floored gymnasium is not so good.
The larger your group, the wider your playing space needs to be. Otherwise, it becomes very hard for any ‘blind’ person to determine what sounds belong to their partner.
You could use actual blindfolds for this exercise, but simply inviting people to close their eyes works pretty well. If they choose to sneak a peek, then Challenge by Choice.
Given the vulnerability of half your group (being ‘blind’) at any point in time, seriously consider an appropriate sequence leading into this exercise. When prepared adequately, this exercise is very useful for building trust among members of your group, but one unwanted, foolish exchange can destroy any trust that has been developed in a flash.
Naturally, when a ‘blind’ person points in the direction of where they think their partner is lurking, they should be encouraged to maintain a straight aim and not an arc.
Health & Wellness Programming
Any time you invite one or more of your group to close their eyes is an opportunity for the presence of unhealthy or disrespectful behaviours to emerge, often in the name of fun. For example, I notice that the propensity for some (sighted, often idle) people to interfere with or trick those who are blindfolded increases in these moments. These are perfect opportunities to explore and discuss the establishment of positive and healthy group norms. As mentioned in the Leadership Tips tab, I will often frame the experience accordingly to curb these sorts of behaviours in advance. In my experience, the presence of these sorts of disrespectful behaviours often echoes issues elsewhere within the group. To this end, in addition to those questions described in the Reflection tab, you could pose the following questions:
In what ways did we demonstrate respect for others in this activity?
In what ways did we disrespect others? What was the impact?
How might these behaviours be reflected elsewhere in the life of the group?
What do you think drives us to exercise these sorts of behaviours?
The ability for the blindfolded person to focus and be fully present to the sounds of their approaching partner speaks directly to mindful practices. In advance, during or at the end of this activity, be sure to invite your group to explore and reflect on effective strategies that help us to:
Focus our attention on one thing at a time,
Relax and remain calm, ie when you know that a surprise may be coming and
Be present to our thoughts at any time.
Limited Guesses: Limit the ‘blind’ person to two or three guesses.
Time Trial: The creeping person’s goal is to touch their partner as quickly as possible without detection.
Aquatic Challenge: Perform the activity in water (eg swimming pool.)
Detection Minefield: Blindfold multiple people, spread randomly throughout the area. Ask one sighted person to attempt to move from one side of the area to the other without being detected by any of the others. Each blindfolded person has a maximum of two guesses.
Take a look at Ghost to play a similar ‘guess-where-I-am’ exercise with eliminations suitable for small groups.
Take a look at Human Camera and Hug A Tree for two more ‘blindfold’ activities that build trust and empathy among partners.
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Dynamic trust exercise to heighten observation skills.
Hug A Tree
Gentle partner exercise that heightens the senses.
Suspenseful group exercise to sharpen observation skills.
Useful Framing Ideas
I find it curious that many people who enjoy scary movies sometimes get startled or surprised very easily as they watch, even though they know that’s what’s going to happen. We’re likely to see a similar phenomenon occur in this next exercise – even though you fully expect to be tapped on the shoulder at any time, the actual tap will quite likely cause you to jump in fright…
You may have heard that dogs have an extraordinary sense of hearing, many times better than human beings. Many frequencies which are completely missed by us can often be picked up by our canine friends. How good is your hearing? This is not a hearing test as such, but this next exercise will certainly test your ability to hear and distinguish a particular kind of sound…
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 trust-building game:
How did it feel to sneak up to someone who could not see you? Why?
How did it feel to be the blindfolded person knowing someone was trying to sneak up to you? Why?
What was the biggest challenge for you in this exercise?
How easy was it to filter out all of the other distractions and focus on your goal?
What might these observations about focus say to our group?
The inspiration for Come To Me, and many more trust-building exercises, was sourced from the following publication: