The life-mapping exercise can serve as useful opening activity in a multi-part dialogue seriesor an extended event like a weekend retreat. It gives participants an opportunity to sharestories about their backgrounds and experiences in a creative and engaging way. Participantscreate sketches that depict experiences, people, places, or relationships that have led them toto take part in the dialogue. They then share their drawings with one another.You may want to use this exercise in the first or second session of a series. We recommendthat you establish the purposes of the dialogue program, set up communication agreements,and give participants a chance to introduce themselves briefly and to share their hopes for theprogram before leading a life-mapping activity.
45 minutes to 2 hours
The exercise works best with small groups.
artists sketch paper (sketchpads that measure 11” x 14” or 14” x 17” work well)
color pens, pencils, or fine-tip markers (make sure you have enough so that eachparticipant has access to several different colors)
Life-mapping can help to establish a strong foundation for dialogue by enablingparticipants to share stories about their backgrounds and experiences with one another at length.
Participants who are not fully comfortable speaking about their experiences sometimesbenefit from having an alternative way of expressing themselves. This exerciseenables them to share feelings and thoughts that they may not be able to communicatewith words.
The exercise provides participants with an opportunity to reflect more deeply on their experiences and feelings than they might if they simply shared their stories verbally,and it supports them in organizing their thoughts. The process of brainstorming andselecting experiences to present, considering how to represent them visually, andfinding ways to illustrate the connections between them can bring forth new insights.
The exercise encourages participants to be creative and flexible, and it helps to createa lively and engaging atmosphere.
1.Give each person a piece of sketch paper and distribute pens, pencils, and/or markers.(You may want to distribute them in a way that encourages participants to share themduring the exercise.)2.Explain the goals for the exercise and lay out the steps that are involved. The exercisewill give them an opportunity to share their stories with each other in a creative way.