Pass out cards and ask every man to write a question on it; no name, just a printed question. The question might deal with the theme of the meeting or be a free for all. You also need not limit it to one question card. If you don’t get to them all, you can save them for another meeting. Collect the cards either folded or face down and mix them up. Now draw one from a hat and do a round based on it.
As a variation on this, have everyone write questions as homework and then bring them.
The round dealing with each question can be a fast one sentence reply, or set up as a long discussion. If it is a longer discussion, set up the format using the communication tools that you have learned. For example, before the man replies to the question he announces what feedback he wants if any. He uses “I” statements and expresses any awareness of scenes, interpretation, intuition, or emotion. For example, a simple question like, “Did your dad come to your school for sport activities?” for some men can be tough. He might reply after announcing what he wants as feedback. “I am aware that I’m feeling hot; I think it is because I’m still angry that my dad never came to anything. But I know intuitively that the reason was that he couldn’t overcome his fear of feeling out of place. Not even for me.” This might bring feedback such as “Would it help if you talk to your father about this now, so that he understands both your emotions and your understanding?”
Because these can easily slip into work, lay out the ground rules before you start. Decide that each man can have as long as he needs, even if only one man can answer the question. Or decide that every man should get a chance to reply to the question and therefore limit the time for each reply. If time is limited, talk about more time later, perhaps at the end of the meeting or as work at the next meeting.
One man is selected and then a round follows where every man tells him what he likes or admires about him. Either do one man a week, (names drawn from an envelope until everyone has been chosen, always works well for this) or use the time at a single meeting to give everyone a turn.
A variation on this that is more difficult but ultimately very nourishing is to start out by saying the man’s name and then saying what you find blocking you from feeling closer to him. For example, “Bob, every time I attempt to tell you something positive about yourself, you look away. This causes me to feel sad because I think you don’t believe what I’m saying.”
You can think of a lot of other variations for this activity. Remember, it is called the Nourishment Game so always be aware that the goal is to help the man.
At one time it was considered a virtue to brag. A man who was able to tell of his own accomplishments was considered a man’s man. Then somehow women decided that this wasn’t very gentlemanly and we were discouraged from doing so. Now if a man wants to brag he has to hire a publicity agency. Well heck, how about just letting loose? Each man takes about three to four minutes, (more time only if you won the Nobel Peace Prize) and unabashedly tells in the most bombastic terms what he is proud of. When the man is done, rather than the groans we have been taught to make, everyone cheers and applauds. As men, we need to once again be free to say what we are proud of and support what our friends are proud of. For example “I am proud that when I brag, I brag without a shred of humility. I’m the best damn braggart I know.”
This can be tailored to a topic. For example, “In my relationship with my father I am most proud that I __.”
This can be played in a number of ways. It is a way of introducing people that are not here but who have influenced your lie. For example, “I would like to introduce my dad. He was…. and our relationship was…. and I was always aware that… I feel… and so on.”
You can introduce family or other influential personalities in your life. For example, “I would like you to meet Thomas Jefferson from whom I learned…” or “meet Frankenstein’s Monster whose story taught me…”
Take on the personality of someone else. Again, let’s use our fathers in our example and then set up a scenario; a typical family dinner, a vacation trip, or Christmas. This can be playful or it can turn dramatic. It is said that there is a thin line between comedy and tragedy, but it is also said that, when one can laugh at the pain, the healing will start. Make sure everyone wants to do it and set a time. Ten to fifteen minutes is good followed with discussion.
Another way to play this is to pair up. One man plays the role of an important person in the life of the other. (In our example, his father) and the other tells him everything he would want to say to him if he were able to hear it, positive or negative. This can be dramatic. Everyone can do it at once in pairs or have just two men at a time with everyone else ready to give support and feedback.
Each man writes his name at the top of a piece of paper. On it are two columns. As the paper is passed around each man writes down in the first column something that he wants to tell the man whose name is at the top, and in the second column he writes down something he wants to know about him. When each man’s paper gets back to him someone starts. They read their own sheet. They may choose to pass on any question they want. You can either do this in rounds where each man reads one from each column or in a round where each man reads his whole sheet before moving on. It is important that each man think about what he is writing and doesn’t simply ask every man the same thing.
This activity can be altered for specific themes. For example, if the meeting was dealing with boyhood, then the questions could be specific to those years.
Another variation: is; speculations based on observations might be written about each man. For example, “I think that you read a lot because reading was valued in your home as a child.” During the round, this perception can be affirmed or corrected. This is a way of understanding how much you know about each other.
It has been said that all philosophy and all spirituality is really just asking ourselves who we are. By doing so, we can discover everything. In this exercise we are helped by having another man ask and hear what we say. This is best done without any forethought. It can be done every six months or so because who we are changes.
Pair up. First man starts by saying “Tell me who you are.
The second man replies, “I am …”
The first man says, “Thank you” and again asks the question, “Tell me who you really are.”
The second man again replies attempting to go deeper into his understanding of who he is again starting with “I am ….”
Again, the second man thanks him, but yet asks “Tell me who you really are beyond that.”
The first man listens and thanks him. Now switch.
This is a more intimate approach than a circle. In this exercise men practice talking Man to Man on difficult topics.
Sometimes your meetings get to looking a bit like a therapy group with everyone sitting around in circles. Here is a way to really change that. Decide on a bit of a risky topic, for example “One thing I don’t like about you is…”, “My first impression of you was…”, “What I don’t want you to know about me is…”, “What I see in you that I see in myself is…” or something related to the theme of the meeting. Next, pair up and decide who will go first. Give it a minute or two depending on if you want feedback or just a “thank you.” Then the two men switch. Form new pairs until everyone has had a chance to share his feelings with every man. If there is an odd number, this will still work if one guy sits out once and only once as the groups change.
This requires trust and at the same time builds trust. It is a type of query but with a twist. Each man is given two small pieces of paper, two poker chips, or anything that can be concealed in one hand. On one is the word “YES,” on the other “NO”. The query must be answerable with a simple yes or no. For example, “Do you ever feel totally alone in the world?”, “Do you ever feel there is no God?” Each man places the answer into his hand and holds it out. You can’t change it now. Everyone opens their hand at the same time revealing their answers.
If your group wants to use this activity, any man choosing to pass must announce it before the hands are held out. It would be very damaging if some hands were empty and others were not. It is a good rule that if one man passes, skip the question and move on. Again, these can be themed for the meeting and are often a way to break the ice for a discussion of a difficult topic.