If you really knew me…

A creative activity to help build compassion and empathy within your team.

Diana Lillicrap 1.18.2019


Brainstorming sessions tend to be most effective when you can include a broad set of perspectives and a diverse representation of ideas. You’ll get varied viewpoints and be able to think through a problem from every angle. But those differences in people and ideas can also be accompanied by conflict.

Why? Because when someone else sees things in a way that conflicts with our own view, we naturally get defensive or dismissive toward them. It’s human, but it can be damaging to a productive idea-generating session. Not to fear. There are thoughtful ways to level the playing field and create meaningful connections between your session participants that will result in more empathy and more open-mindedness.

Here’s how:

At the start of your next session, change up your typical introductions. Instruct your participants to briefly introduce themselves (name, role, unique perspective) and then in addition to that, ask them to complete this sentence with something specific about themselves: “If you really knew me, then you’d know…”

Allow people to share whatever feels comfortable. It can be personal, professional, funny, serious. It doesn’t really matter as long as it’s authentic. By the time you get around the room, everyone will have had a chance to share something unique about themselves—making them feel special. And everyone else will have heard something about each person in the room that makes them more human, which actually makes them more likeable and more memorable.

The activity builds empathy and compassion, something that will come in handy if conflict comes up between opposing opinions later during the session. This technique is great in brainstorming sessions, team meetings, or anytime new people with diverse ideas come together to share views and solve problems. So, get to know each other. You might just find knowing your team actually leads to a better understanding of your problem.

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