Games that can Build Empathy

"Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another." - Alfred Adler

According to Brené Brown, "empathy fuels connection." In turn, appreciating someone's perspective can fuel empathy. However, our assumptions about that person can limit our curiosity to see through their eyes.

These assumptions about others build over time. We see how they respond to an event or how they engage in conversation. We begin to believe we know how they will think, feel and see in a given moment. Creative games can break us out of this rut, however, reminding us to stay curious.

 

A board of OuiSi cards arranged like dominoes on a carpeted classroom floor. Approximately ten kids are sitting around the cards, participating.

Seeing through the eyes of another, in the classroom

Sibling perspective

As an example, take my sister and I. We had a difficult relationship growing up. We fought from a fairly young age, and that continued well into our 20s. Her wonderful kids changed our dynamic and allowed us to reset. However, we still often depend on old assumptions to navigate each other.

Recently, her family and I played one of the games in OuiSi. This particular game asks players to make matches between photo cards based on visual connections (e.g. perhaps cards share a similar pattern, shape or color). Part of winning the game means making visual matches that someone else will appreciate, not just yourself. In other words, understanding how other players see increases your chance of winning.

 

5 OuiSi photo cards in a row. Each card connects visually with the one next, sharing similar patterns, shapes and colors (for example, two cards have stripes)

The shape/pattern of the petals and pencils; multi-colored pencils and arm cozy; black and white stripes; pattern of lines from building to turnstile

 

During rounds of play, I would make photo connections that I really liked, yet she did not like (and vice versa). I realized that she and I truly saw the visual connections in the game differently. She gravitated towards matches based on color, while I liked matches based on shape and pattern.

Since playing a few weeks ago, I've been noodling on this: what else do we see differently? What do I assume about my sister's perspective? What do I assume she believes simply because I have that belief? I think these questions are making me more curious about how my sister sees the world, and hopefully that will build empathy. Empathy that fuels (re)connection.

Empathy Strengthens with Practice

Besides OuiSi, think of creative games like Charades or Pictionary, or activities like writing a story together or building Lego structures without a guide. They demand perspective and creativity, and afford players an opportunity to learn about each other. This learning is an antidote to assumptions that hamper empathy.

We'd love to hear about your experiences with play, perspective and empathy. Add a comment below, or ping us on social media (@playouisi #ouisi).

Thanks for sharing and connecting,

Paul

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1 comment

  • Play IS the thing! Perhaps one silver lining due to current events is the opportunity (if we’re lucky) for more unstructured time to PLAY.

    Ellen

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