What is Identity Circles?
Identity Circles is a thought-provoking icebreaker activity that encourages deep conversations about personal values. The purpose of this game is to provide participants with the opportunity to discuss and understand the values that shape their identities, as well as how they prioritize them in their lives. This activity involves pairing up participants and having them share why they chose certain values, followed by reflecting on the importance of those values by ripping up one card at a time until only their most important value remains. Identity Circles is a versatile and low-maintenance group activity suitable for small to large groups, promoting deeper connections between individuals who might not otherwise engage in meaningful conversations.
Rules for Identity Circles
- Purchase enough index cards and pens for each participant.
- Divide the group into two concentric circles, with inner circle participants paired with outer circle participants.
- Hand out index cards and pens to all participants.
- Instruct participants to write down their values (one per card) until they have 10 cards.
- Have partners share why they chose their written values for 5-7 minutes.
- After sharing, ask inner circle participants to rip up one of their cards and reflect on living without that part of their identity.
- Inner circle participants rotate to the right to find a new partner.
- Discuss with the new partner why they ripped up the card they did.
- Repeat steps 6-8 until each participant is left with one card, representing their most important value.
- (Optional) Have each person order and share their values cards without destroying them.
Materials needed for Identity Circles
- Index cards: You will need enough index cards for each participant to have ten cards. These will be used for participants to write down their values.
- Pens: Make sure you have enough pens for all participants, so they can write on their index cards.
- Space: This activity works best indoors and requires enough space for the group to form two concentric circles. Chairs or floor space can be used for this activity.
Setting up for Identity Circles
To set up for the Identity Circles icebreaker activity, you will need to divide your group into two equal circles, one inner and one outer. The people in the outer circle should face inside, and the people in the inner circle should face outside. This creates pairs of participants who will discuss their values and identity.
Before starting the activity, you will need to prepare index cards and pens for each participant. Ask them to write down ten values that they feel make up their identity, with one value per card. Some categories to consider when identifying values include race, religion, occupation, family, traits, activities, health, and socio-economic status.
Once everyone has written down their values, have the participants share why they chose the values they did with their first partner. After sharing for a few minutes, ask all participants to rip up one of their cards as a reflection on how they prioritize their values. Then, have the outer circle rotate so that each participant has a new partner. Repeat this process until each participant is left with their most important value.
Optional instructions include having participants order their values from most important to least important and sharing these values with each other without destroying the cards. This activity requires little preparation and can work for groups of 8-50 people, making it a versatile icebreaker option.
How to play Identity Circles
- Purchase necessary materials: I purchased index cards and pens for each participant. I needed enough index cards for each person to have ten and enough pens for everyone to have one.
- Prepare the value categories list: I prepared a list of value categories that could be useful for identifying values, such as race, religion, occupation, family traits, activities, health, and socio-economic status.
- Distribute materials and instructions: I handed out the index cards and pens to each participant and asked them to think about their values and what makes up their identity. I instructed them to write one value on each index card, aiming for a total of ten values per person.
- Share values with first partners: Once everyone had their values written down, I paired up the participants and had them share why they chose the values they did with their initial partner. This step took around 5-7 minutes.
- Reflect on value prioritization: After sharing, I asked each participant to rip up one of their cards, reflecting on how they prioritize their values and imagining living without that part of their identity.
- Rotate partners: I then had the outer circle rotate one partner to the right so everyone had a new pair. The new pairs discussed why they ripped up the card they did.
- Repeat until left with one value: We continued this process, ripping up one card at a time, until each participant was left with only one card – their most important value.
- Optional step: Order values and share: As an optional step, I had participants order their values from most important to least important and share these values with each other without destroying the cards. They explained each value as they shared.
This low-maintenance icebreaker requires little preparation and can be suitable for groups of 8 to 50 people. It encourages deep sharing among participants, promoting better understanding and connection within the group.
Benefits of Identity Circles
- Benefit: Encourages Deep Connection and Understanding By discussing their values and identity with multiple partners, participants can develop a deeper understanding of each other’s beliefs, passions, and experiences. This process fosters empathy and respect within the group, promoting a more inclusive and supportive environment.
- Benefit: Enhances Communication Skills Engaging in thoughtful conversations about personal values provides an opportunity for participants to practice active listening, clear articulation of their thoughts, and asking insightful questions. These skills are essential for effective communication in both personal and professional settings.
- Benefit: Provides Insight into Personal Priorities Ripping up one value card at a time encourages introspection, helping participants recognize which aspects of their identity matter most to them. This self-awareness can lead to better decision-making and prioritization in various aspects of life.
- Benefit: Fosters an Open and Inclusive Atmosphere The Identity Circles icebreaker facilitates discussions about diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives, promoting a culture of openness and inclusivity within the group. By acknowledging and celebrating differences, participants can build stronger connections based on shared values.
- Benefit: Facilitates Networking and Relationship Building This icebreaker is an excellent opportunity for individuals to meet new people and form meaningful relationships. By sharing personal stories and experiences, participants can discover commonalities that might not have been apparent otherwise, leading to long-lasting connections.
- Benefit: Boosts Self-confidence Openly discussing one’s values and identity with others can help individuals develop self-confidence in their unique perspectives and beliefs. As participants engage in conversations about their personal priorities, they may feel more empowered to express themselves authentically and stand up for their values.
Skills built with Identity Circles
- Communication skills: Playing Identity Circles allows individuals to practice active listening and clear communication as they share their personal values and discuss why they prioritize them.
- Empathy and understanding: By discussing their values and identity with multiple partners, players can develop a greater appreciation for different perspectives and experiences, fostering empathy and cross-cultural understanding.
- Self-awareness and introspection: Writing down and reflecting on their personal values helps participants gain insight into what truly matters to them and understand themselves better.
- Critical thinking and decision-making: Deciding which values to prioritize and which cards to rip up encourages players to exercise their critical thinking skills and make deliberate choices based on their beliefs and experiences.
- Relationship building and trust: Engaging in deep, personal conversations with others can help build trust and strengthen relationships, fostering a sense of community within the group.
- Adaptability and flexibility: Adjusting to new partners and discussing different values throughout the game requires players to be adaptable and open to change.
- Public speaking and confidence: Sharing their most important value with the entire group can help participants build public speaking skills and gain confidence in expressing themselves in front of others.
Why I like Identity Circles
I appreciate the Identity Circles icebreaker because it allows participants to engage in meaningful conversations about their values and identity. This activity offers a structured way for individuals to share personal aspects of themselves with others, fostering connections and understanding within the group. By prioritizing values through the process of ripping up cards, participants reflect on what truly matters to them and are encouraged to consider different perspectives.
One aspect I particularly like about this icebreaker is its simplicity in organization and execution, making it accessible for groups of various sizes. Additionally, Identity Circles can be easily adapted based on context or time constraints, such as having participants rank their values instead of destroying the cards.
Engaging in deep conversations with new acquaintances can sometimes feel daunting, but the structure provided by Identity Circles helps ease that tension. This activity has the potential to create an environment where people feel more comfortable sharing and connecting on a deeper level, ultimately contributing to a stronger group dynamic.
Tips for making Identity Circles more inclusive
Tip: Use diverse value categories Make sure to include a wide range of value categories that reflect the diversity of your group’s backgrounds and experiences. This can help ensure that all participants feel seen, heard, and included in the activity.
Tip: Encourage sharing and listening Create a safe and supportive space for sharing by reminding participants to listen actively and respectfully to their partners. Encourage them to ask questions and show genuine interest in each other’s values.
Tip: Provide optional prompts Offer optional prompts or conversation starters that can help guide the discussion and ensure that everyone has a chance to share. This can be especially helpful for participants who may feel hesitant to speak up or who are not sure what to say.
Tip: Use inclusive language Make sure to use gender-neutral and culturally sensitive language throughout the activity. Avoid making assumptions about participants’ identities, experiences, or values based on their appearance or demographic information.
Tip: Adapt the instructions as needed Be flexible and adaptable in your approach to leading the activity. If you notice that some participants are struggling to connect with each other or are feeling left out, consider modifying the instructions or providing additional support to help them engage more fully.
Tip: Debrief the activity Take time at the end of the activity to debrief and reflect on the experience. Ask participants about their takeaways, what they learned, and how they felt during the activity. This can help deepen their understanding of each other’s values and create a stronger sense of community within the group.
Reflection questions for Identity Circles
- What value did you end up with, and why do you think it’s your most important one? Understanding the core values of participants can provide insights into their motivations and help build empathy within the group.
- How did you feel when you ripped up one of your cards? Why? This question can help participants reflect on their emotions and thought processes during the activity, promoting self-awareness and emotional intelligence.
- Did any of your partners’ values or stories surprise you? If so, how? Encouraging reflection on others’ experiences can foster a greater appreciation for diversity and promote open-mindedness in the group.
- How comfortable were you sharing your values and listening to your partners’ values? This question can help facilitators gauge the effectiveness of the icebreaker in promoting meaningful conversations among participants.
- What did you learn about yourself or others through this activity? This reflection question encourages participants to verbalize their insights, deepening their understanding and appreciation for one another.
- How can you apply what you learned today to your interactions with others in the group or beyond it? By considering practical applications, participants may be more likely to integrate their newfound understanding into their everyday lives, promoting lasting change.
About the author
Founder & Chief Icebreaker
I started Icebreaker Spot because I truly believe that strong connections are the foundation of successful teams. I wanted to create a platform that would make it easy for people to find and share icebreakers and team building activities, empowering them to build trust, foster collaboration, and ultimately, achieve greatness together.
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