Story exchange


  •  To turn a personal story into one that influences the group culture
  •  To allow people to connect deeply with each other and themselves around things that matter.
  • To illustrate the idea of filtering
  • To give each person the gift of their own story seen through the eyes of others.
  • To tease out conversation about ownership and responsibility

Overview: In pairs participants share a story where they experienced flow/fulfillment. Participants then exchange stories and retell each others stories as their own to new partners. After 3 exchanges participants share the stories in the large group.

Time: 25 min

Number of participants: 6-12  (if the group is of an uneven number, you can join them)

Game flow

For the participants For the facilitator
Choose an object that you can identify as your own e.g. pen/ sunglasses/ note book/ ear ring etc. Hold it in your hand. This object is just something to help you manage the game. Each person’s story will be symbolized by the object that they own.
Think of a moment in your life when you experienced an ‘aha-moment’. You can adapt the question any way you like, but keep it about something positive and inspiring e.g. a moment where you felt fulfilled at work etc.
In pairs tell each other your story. Time participants for 2 min each. Warn them ahead of time about the time constraint.. Give them a half time warning and count them down from 10 sec.
Swop objects with your partner.  This is the object you chose earlier and  is a representative of your story. Your partner now holds your story, and you hold theirs.  
Find new partners and this time tell the story of the person whose object you hold in your hand as if it is your own. Tell it in the first person. You can choose to let them say who they are , or you can ask them deliberately not to reveal whose story they hold. Play with it and see what you like best in what situation.
Swop objects again, find new partners and repeat the process a third time. Make sure people do not end up with someone holding their own story. The objects help people sort this out.
Swop objects for the last time. This time do not find other partners, you will share this last story you heard with the entire group as your own in the first person. IF people know each other well, it is fun to let them imitate the mannerisms of the person whose story they hold. This only works, of course, if you chose to let them reveal the identity of the people as objects are swopped.


What was this exercise like for you?

Who do the stories belong to?

What was it like to get your own story back after it was filtered by the group? r

Let them write down what theylearned about themselves and the group from this exercise.


Thank each other for taking care of the stories and for the gift of giving it back in a new package.

Tips and variations

  1. IT is not always useful to do the writing exercise, it depends on where and why you use the strategy.
  2. In a very large group, divide them into smaller groups of 6. In the final round people will be hearing their own stories back to themselves if they did not swop outside the group of six.
  3. This strategy works very well early in a workshop for people to get to know each other. It is fun to let them swop name tags instead of objects. Of course you will make the story light and not to personal for the start of a process.
  4. If you want to keep the source of each story anonymous, use ordinary playing cards for people to swop. Only the person who had a particular card would know if it was theirs or not.


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