Bonus: Everybody wins!
If you were ever subjected to one of those drop-the-needle music appreciation courses, I’m so sorry. It really shouldn’t be like that.
To play these team building exercises, you can use any mobile device that has a speaker music app. Audiophiles may wish to use an old-style music system with awesome surround sound. The same instructions apply either way.
I call this team building exercise “The Music Game,” and here’s how it goes:
1. Create a game-specific playlist.
Build up a purely random playlist of music from a wide variety of genres, with a wide variety of moods and that will be both familiar and unfamiliar to people. You’ll want to have about 50-100 songs on your list. The length of the songs doesn’t matter.
2. Get your crew together.
You can do this intimately with just you and your partner, or at a party with a roomful of players of all ages.
3. Give everyone who’s playing the following set of instructions:
- You are about to listen to a clip from a song.
When you hear it, yell — yes, yell! — the first emotion you feel. There are NO WRONG ANSWERS!
- Once everyone has chimed in, stop playing the song. This is your opportunity to really communicate. Ask everyone to share a bit about why the music made them feel the way they did. Again: there are NO WRONG ANSWERS!
- When everyone is ready, repeat the first two steps over again with a new song.
- Feel free to stage-manage the contrast between the moods of each song — the more contrast the better.
The point of the game is to wake up the built-in love and appreciation we as human beings share for music. We all have an emotional response to music of different kinds. Not only does that make this game fun to play in groups — and super intimate to play one-on-one! — it can fine-tune your awareness of seemingly unrelated aspects of your life so that you can become more attuned to the patterns of your own emotions, as well as to the emotions of the people with whom you play.
The Music Game can also help you more accurately read other people's feelings and body language in the moment. These skills improve with practice, so play often. I use this game as a team-building exercise in the Music Care classes I teach regularly. Participants have included homeless people, family members, civic organizations, not-for-profit collaboratives, religious organizations, and businesses. It is appropriate and effective for everyone.
What’s the prize for playing team-building games like this?
Guaranteed improvement in the depth of your authentic human connections and relationships. You get closer, more connected, more empathetic and more real.
Therapists might say team building games of this nature are another way to access your “inner child.” They are also an innovative and intriguing opportunity to bring a group of casual acquaintances into a more meaningful dialogue.
I’ve even used it effectively as a "warm-up" before meetings.
The Music Game is such a fabulous way to build intimacy and understanding because it often unlocks forgotten or hidden aspects of who we are. I've seen participants spontaneously tell amazing stories no one else knew after a song sparked a nostalgic memory.
This game can get deep. Laughter is frequent, and sometimes, so are tears.
Bill Protzmann is a speaker and life coach on a mission to raise awareness about the power of music as self-care. Want to join the music care movement? Check out the Music Care website or sign up for lessons.