I recently came up with a family game (of sorts) that scared me so much, it took me a solid week of preparation before I was willing to pitch it to my family. After two weeks of playing, I’ve decided that I’m ready to share. Be warned, though: this is different than any game you’ve ever seen me write about.
It doesn’t have name.
It doesn’t have a winner, either, or a loser. It’s neither cooperative nor competitive.
Bring a die to the dinner table. I like an eight-sided die, but you could use a six sided one if you prefer. I don’t recommend a d20, unless you really like to count.
Talk with the rest of your family and select how many rounds you want to play. You’re going to be playing one round every night at dinner. That’s right: one round a night. My family started the game a couple weeks ago, and we’re playing until Easter. You might want to start with something smaller, like maybe twelve rounds.
How to play
Each round of the game is played at dinner. Once you’re all sitting down together, and before you eat, one person grabs the die and rolls it. That player is going first.
On your turn, roll the die. Count clockwise around the table, pointing to each player. Skip yourself, and any players that have already been targeted. When you get to the number you rolled, stop. That person is your target.
Give that person a sincere compliment, one that you have not heard given to them in the game before.
Pass the die to the person on your left.
If you get to a situation where there’s only one complimented person left, there’s no reason to roll the die.
If the person rolling is the only person who hasn’t been complimented, that person rolls the die anyway, and the target has to give the compliment to the roller.
The round ends once everyone has had a turn.
- When giving a compliment, it must be sincere. Jokes are fine, but the actual compliment has to be real.
- No making fun of the person giving the compliment. It might take a little while. That’s okay.
- When receiving a compliment, you’re not allowed to deny it. You can make jokes, laugh, cry, crawl under the table, whatever you like. But you can’t deny or minimize it.
- No spreading of compliments. No complimenting one person, and then turning to another and saying “that goes for you, too.” This is a compliment from you to the other person. That’s it.
- No duplicates! Once a person has been given a certain compliment, you can’t repeat it. No telling your wife she’s pretty four nights in a row. You’ve got to go deeper.
Why the game works
Connecting and Understanding. Complimenting someone is easy. Complimenting them every night is less so. Knowing that you’re going to give a compliment every night for the next 40 nights… now you have to stretch. You’ll find yourself really thinking about the person, looking for traits both big and small.
It’s not just about giving. You’re going to receive compliments that you’re not expecting, things that you never thought about, things that tell you as much about the complimenter as they do about you.
Social Skills. Whether you’re a kid or an adult, it’s good to be able to give a compliment. It’s also good to be able to receive one. More subtly, watching the compliments happen is also incredibly instructive. Think back to when you were a child. How did you react to your sibling being praised?
Spontaneity & Pressure. You don’t know who you’re going to compliment until you roll the die. You’re going to be on the spot, in front of your whole family, trying to come up with something to say. It’s awkward and squirmy and fun.
I didn’t know how to categorize this one. Is it a game? Yes. Is it life? Yes. It’s also ridiculously scary. If you feel up to the challenge, however, please give it a try. It’s eye-opening and awareness-building and yes, I’ll say it, it could even change your life.
Finally, I have to give a shout out to Laura Holbrook, the person who inspired this game with her fantastic team-building exercise. Thanks, Laura!