Saturday, September 12, 2015

Random Acts of Kindness Introductions Game

Random Acts of Kindness Introductions
The Improv Game created by Nat Tsolak
August, 2015

“Random act of kindness
A random act of kindness is a selfless act performed by a person or people wishing either to assist or to cheer up an individual person or people. The phrase may have been coined by Anne Herbert, who says that she wrote "Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty" on a place mat at a Sausalito restaurant in 1982 or 1983.[1][2] Either spontaneous or planned, random acts of kindness are encouraged by various communities.”

One of the perks of being a member of the AIN (Applied Improv Network) is meeting others around the world involved in using improvisation tools to help people.  Nat Tsolak from the UK (London) has a background in both Psychology and business as well as comedy improv.  We have never met, but reading his posts on Facebook I’m sure that we’d be great friends if our paths do breach the big pond someday. 

A few weeks ago I was intrigued by an announcement that he had created a new game that he calls: “Random Acts of Kindness.”  His purpose, he states, in coming up with the game was to find a way to build trust between strangers that didn’t rely on true personal revelations.  And also to give new players a chance to practice making up improvised stories.

So, the basic game, as I understand it, is for a member of the group to introduce another member by telling an improvised story which features their subject having done a “random act of kindness.”   The real value, as I see it, is to speak about someone in a wholly positive light, raising his status by sharing the little known fact.  E. g.  “I’d like to introduce Jason.  Very few people know that he always pays for the guy behind him when he crosses a toll bridge or paid freeway.”  “Meet Selena.  She collects water in a watering can in her shower and everyday waters her neighbor’s flower garden.  With the California drought it has made a difference.”

The idea is to simply endow someone as having done a kind and thoughtful deed that benefits others.  There is no need for the story to be wildly creative or fantastical.  (Although it can be.) The key thing is for us all to see that person (that character) in a positive light.  I think an added benefit is that these ideas fill the room with warm pictures of human actions that help others. 

A development of the game is to have the recipient agree to the story and add a detail from their perspective.  To illustrate this (Jason above) might add:  “Yes, and one day a lady was so charmed by my paying her toll that she rushed to catch up with me, jumped out of the car at a stoplight where we were both stopped and gave me a rose!”

Clearly, this game (as is true for most games) can be used for other purposes.  A lot depends upon what the early examples are.  It’s certainly possible to use the prompt as a way of coming up with the most elaborate and hysterical “act”, and thereby turn the game into a comedy creation session.   For my money, striving to make the endowments into wildly silly actions subverts the game.  Then, participants get the idea that we are trying to create “crazy stuff ” and may miss the point of making their partner look good.  When I teach this I always remind them that simple, ordinary examples of a “random act” are terrific.  We aren’t trying to outdo each other with cleverness.  Our purpose is to make up a story that tells of a positive action someone did.  The person receiving the story about them should feel great!  Maybe that’s the measure of the game. 

I proposed that we could all play this on Facebook.  I can name a friend and tell an imaginary story about them.  If they want to continue the game, the person storied can name someone else and make up a new story. 

What do you think? 

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