Congratulations! You’ve added Smol Tok to your personal kit.
I know you’re excited to break in your new cards but before your next game begins, I hope you get some time to read this guide to facilitating Smol Tok in small groups. The primary aim in playing Smol Tok is to build meaningful relationships with other players by having meaningful conversations. If played well, a natural consequence of Smol Tok is a deeper awareness of self and others.
The role of the facilitator is to enable and encourage meaningful conversations, and to minimise obstacles that might stand in the way. This could mean:
encouraging others to ask meaningful follow-up questions
jumping in and moving the conversation forward when things get stuck
expanding beyond single word/sentence answers
using humour to set players at ease
This might sound like a big ask. Don’t be intimidated.
The good news is that anyone can play the role of the facilitator. Smol Tok is designed to be self-facilitated so you don’t have to have any kind of special training to facilitate a game. Like what I mentioned in a recent article, facilitating conversations is a skill that anyone can improve upon with practice. So let’s get down to it. Here are some learning points about facilitating.
You Set The Tone
As the facilitator, you set the stage for playing with meaning. What kind of experience do you want players to have? State this clearly at the start so everyone knows what they’re getting themselves into. You set the tone by communicating and sharing openly, honestly, and authentically, and encouraging others to do the same. This is a prerequisite for the following guides and rulers to help you facilitate Smol Tok.
Guides: Curiosity And Sensitivity
As facilitator, you need to maintain a balance between prompting players to share deeper or holding back when players feel prodded. The distinction is a basic one. Prompting entails a 'pulling' effect, inviting and drawing a response in a way that is neither offensive nor excessive. Prodding feels different and entails 'pushing' a player to share beyond what is called for and may cause discomfort.
May sound a little abstract here but I suppose a good guide to go by is your sense of curiosity and sensitivity. Let curiosity lead you as you prompt others. At the same time, be sensitive to how players respond. There is no need to ask follow-up questions for the sake of asking questions. Which leads me to the next point.
Rulers: The Golden Rule
As a complement to the guides above, another internal compass you can rely on when facilitating and moderating conversations is the Golden Rule. It's beautiful and universal in its simplicity and can be expressed in 2 ways:
Do to others what you would have others do to you.
Do not do to others what you would not want others to do to you.
If at any stage you feel unsure if you are prompting or prodding, ask yourself if you would want others to prompt or not prompt you in a particular way, and proceed accordingly.
Having said that, certain questions may require deeper reflection and players may take some time to respond. You can help by giving space or asking players to share examples of what they mean.
“Tweets? That stuff kills conversation. And people taking pictures with their phone or recording you, sometimes surreptitiously, is creepy.”
Now that you’ve read and internalised the learning points above, it’s also a good idea to pay some attention to optimising the physical conditions for playing:
Food and drink: This is not a prerequisite but whether it’s at home, in a restaurant, or at a café/watering hole, playing Smol Tok over food and drinks helps create an open atmosphere. Give it a go and have some fun.
Choice of space: Wherever it is you’re playing Smol Tok, it should comfortably seat your players (4-6 are recommended per small group) and enable conversations to take place at a normal conversational volume (no need for shouting or whispering).
Mobile phones: They’re a distraction and prevent people from being truly present to a conversation. Get players to put them on airplane mode for the duration of the game. A disincentive to phone use may be necessary: perhaps whoever checks their phones will have to buy a bowl of chips? Yum.
Players: It’s a good idea to first play Smol Tok with your closest friends and family. But what happens when you’ve played with your closest and dearest? Who do you call next? Use Smol Tok to reconnect with old mates you haven’t been communicating with. Reach out to someone and start having meaningful conversations.
I hope these learning points will come in handy when you organise your next game. Post a question or share your feedback on Facebook. I’d love to hear about your experiences or ideas on how to adapt or improve Smol Tok.
In my next post, I’ll suggest a few playing variations to adapt Smol Tok to different scenarios.