Friday, May 1, 2009 by Dave Blum

There’s an icebreaker I like in a book called “The Conflict and Communication Activity Book”, by Bill Withers and Keami D. Lewis.  The game is called “Energy Jump” and it works like this:

  • Tell the group that you want them to jump up out of their chairs every time you clap your hands.
  • Begin talking about something else and then suddenly surprise them by clapping your hands.
  • Continue talking and then move your hands together as if you are going to clap.  Stop just short of clapping and see what the group does.
  • Some will either get set, start to get up, or even jump up.
  • Everyone will have some reaction–even if they haven’t moved.

The point is to give people a chance to feel what it’s like for their body to be ready.  Some people will say:

  • “I was tense.”
  • “I wanted to get it right.”
  • “My muscles were ready to go.”
  • “I leaned forward.”
  • “My toes curled.”
  • “My heart beat a little faster.”

When we’re ready to do something, say Withers and Louis (the book’s authors), “our bodies get a rush of energy.  If we are paying attention to our bodies, we can feel this energy rush…it’s good to remember that our bodies want to move when we are challenged in any way.  In a conflict, we sometimes react to what we think is going to happen instead of what is really happening.”

I have a theory that we feel ALL our emotions in our bodies — and not just the adrenaline rush of conflict and challenge.  If you’re feeling happy, you may sense it as a warmth spreading through your chest and belly.  If you’re sad, you may sense it as a tightness in your neck or shoulders.

Tuning into the sensations in your body is a VERY useful skill to develop — whether you’re at home with the kids, in the boardroom with your co-workers, or out on business team building exercise or corporate team challenge.  When something happens that you like or don’t like, first check in with your body.  After a short while, you’ll be able to notice, for example, “Hmm, my muscles are telling me I’m frightened.  I wonder where that came from.”  Isn’t this kind of calm, inquiring introspection better than the alternative:  acting out mindlessly on your emotions, either with flight or fight?!!

Even the so-called “team building experts” (myself included) could use a little more training in observing their emotions, rathing than reacting to them.