Games of Engagement

Do you often need to repeat yourself because your so-called listeners completely or partially miss what you’re saying?

Perhaps the opposite happens, leaving you to wonder or ask, “What did you just say?”

Even when encounters are face to face, communication failures are common for an obvious reason: instead of being present in the moment, people are preoccupied with other matters.

When is the last time you attended an online meeting, for instance, without someone typing the next great novel, staring like a zombie at a screen, or giving a dog a bone?

If you, a friend, or your team are failing to grasp the context and nuances of conversations, I suggest some games of engagements for the mind and body to address lack of focus. The following three exercises are based on classic childrens games.

Three Games of Engagement

1. The Quiet Game

Objective: Be the last to speak.

When my childhood friends and I played, we were not allowed to make any sound, not even an involuntary giggle or sneeze to stay in the game.

Game: The player(s) remain quiet for a specified amount of time. In addition to obvious interruptions like whispering, other noises such as throat clearing and loudly exhaling count as disruptions.

Winning Strategy: Relax the jaw and keep the tongue gently pressed against the roof of the mouth towards the teeth.

Practical Application: Acquire the habit of reserving comments and questions until the end of the meeting or another designated moment, such as when the leader requests input. Striving to be the last to pose questions or add to the conversation allows time to contemplate what others have shared and potentially contribute a unique and valuable insight … or simply learn.

2. Statues

Objective: Be the last to make any noticeable moves.

Unlike statues of marble and bronze, my energetic friends and I always struggled to hold the same position for more than a minute!

Game: Sit straight up. Don’t look down or away, use technology, eat, drink, or fidget with anything during a specified time.

Winning Strategy: Get into a comfortable seated position (without slouching) and sit on your hands. Alternatively, keep your hands on your lap while imagining they are glued in place.

Practical Application: Adopt a disciplined posture to be in the moment, mindful of all verbal and nonverbal language transpiring, while demonstrating respect for others.

3. Staring Contest

Objective: Be the last to look away or blink in a stare down with another person.

We would always strive to keep a straight face, as it’s nearly impossible to maintain a gaze while giggling!

Game: Two players stand or sit across from one another and stare into each other’s eyes. (If alone, stare into a mirror for as long as possible.) Using a timer to track progress, play again and again, always aiming to remain in the game longer.

Winning Strategy: Intentionally look into the eyes while considering the beauty and function of the lashes, lids, pupils, irises, and corneas.

Practical Application: Become comfortable with establishing eye contact to convey interest, sincerity, and respect. The interaction should be natural and appropriate. Don’t cause the other person to feel uneasy by holding a gaze too long or by making direct eye contact when doing so goes against a cultural norm.

If you (or someone you know) would benefit from adopting behaviors that foster attentiveness, why not commit to a daily practice for one month? Play only one game at a time, if desired, and limit each engagement to a few minutes.

In the end, everyone wins an enduring prize: a set of second-nature habits that enhance the ability to focus and enjoy more rewarding conversations.

Ready, set, go!

Thoughts or questions? Please contact Sallie Boyles, owner of Write Lady Inc., to exchange ideas about effective communications and gain from professional writing and editing services. Receive monthly tips and insights by subscribing at