In my shoes is a team building activity to create strong bond between people, while exercising empathy and active listening skills.
Running the activity:
- Divide the participants in two groups of same size.
- Ask one of the groups to leave the room and wait for further instructions.
- Ask for the participants in the room to remove their shoes, leave it on a display, and wait for further instructions
- Ask the group outside the room to remove their shoes, leaving them near the door, and then enter the room
- Instruct the participants entering the room to select and wear a pair of shoes (either wear it, or just hold them by the hands)
- The shoes owners should pair up with whoever got their shoes
- The pair should go for a short “in my shoes” walk and talk (time-box it for 10 minutes), in which the shoe owner talk, while the shoe holder must actively listen, without replying or talking back. The following are the subject for the walk and talk:
* What was the most difficult moment in your life?
* What was the best moment in your life?
* What was the most embarrassing moment in your life?
- After the first walk and talk everyone should return to the room and leave the shoes there.
- Then the listeners should go outside of the room and select a pair of shoes.
- Go back to step 6 for the second round of walk and talk (now the talkers will be the listeners, and the listeners will be the talkers, although the pairs might change)
This activity provides very touching moments, definitely exercising empathy and active listening. It was inspired by a similar activity in the empathy museum. From their website: “The Empathy Museum’s first exhibit is a shoe shop where visitors are invited to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes – literally.” (a mile in my shoes exhibit)
The rule of only listening without replying emphasizes the active listening skill, where people really listen, without interrupting, or pointing out how they relate to the story.
The instruction for this activity where provided by Grazielle Mendes.
Remote-team advice: This activity works well for remote teams. Use the team’s remote communication tool to pair up participants in separate chat rooms for their virtual walk, then bring everybody to the same meeting/room and each person introduces their pair.