Got to a paper store and get some cheap paper. It’s fun to make this a bit exotic if you get wrapping paper with old world pictures on one side and white on the other. We have done this twice with large maps ofLondonandParis. The old maps create a sense of intrigue. While you’re there pick up some tiny envelopes 3 x 5 or even a bit smaller. Whatever they have that is not too expensive. Normal small mailing envelopes are fine but lack the atmosphere of this exercise. If you’re planning on doing this workshop multiple times, we suggest you invest in a rubber stamp from the local office supply that says ‘confidential.’ We picked one up for around $12 with red ink.
Stamp or write ‘Confidential’ on each of your envelopes ahead of time (kind of at an angle like you see in a spy movie).
Gather your group together and hand out cut up slips of paper from your sheet of wrapping paper. Give them a big enough piece to write a few sentences but not too big.
Ask them to think of a secret from their life, or someone else’s life. If they look stuck or terrified, tell them they can make up a secret if they want. Explain that these are confidential. Nobody will ever know whose secret belongs to whom.
You may need to help some of them think about secrets. We had one woman who declared she had no secrets at all. Don’t be surprised about a little resistance here. This same woman later confessed that a woman in her church kept claiming she’d slept with this woman’s husband (who was also the minister of the church).
Once you get them all to write a secret, consider this a success all in itself. You’ve gotten them all to write something and be creative. They probably haven’t been creative in a long while. Now pass out the envelopes and have them put their secrets in the envelopes and seal them. Collect the envelopes in a bowl, mix them up and pass them back out.
You should have made a few extra secrets ahead of time. If one of the participants gets back the secret they put into the pile, you can substitute one of these backup secrets for that one they received. Announce to the group to raise their hand if they open a secret that they recognize as their own.
The rest is pretty straightforward. Ask them to think about the secret they’ve read and then tell the story of that secret. Give them 10-15 minutes to write that story. Afterwards, encourage them to share their stories to the group. Each of them is wondering who got the other’s secrets and what they did with them.
We like this exercise because not only does it stimulate creativity, it also helps the participants get to know each other on a different level than meeting in the hallway. This kind of sharing promotes friendship and bonding which helps enrich their daily lives.