Schelling Day 2.0

by Ben_LandauTaylor 2 min read9th Apr 201410 comments


Schelling Day is a holiday about getting to know the people in your community that we created and celebrated in 2013. By popular request, I've revised the procedure to take into account what we learned last year. I'm aware of plans to hold Schelling Day in Boston, New York, and San Francisco on April 16. (Not 14, because of the conflict with Passover, which is also a major community event for many people.) I'd love to know of any additional celebrations that you guys hold.

Last year's event played a part in the Boston group’s development into a closer and more caring community. Sharing the things you want to share, and receiving compassion and understanding from the group, turns out to be extremely powerful evidence that it’s safe to share important things with the group—and as it turns out, brains update if you give them good evidence.

Schelling Day

If necessary, split into groups of no more than 10-15 people. Each group gathers and sits in a circle. At the center is a table. On the table are four small bowls of delicious snacks. Eating the delicious snacks at this stage is VERBOTEN. There is also a single large, empty bowl.

Everyone will have a six-sided die.

Everyone will have a chance to speak, or to not speak. When it’s your turn, roll your die. Showing the result to others is VERBOTEN.

If your die shows a six, you MUST speak. If your die shows a one, you MUST NOT speak. Otherwise, you choose whether or not to speak. The die is to provide plausible deniability. Attempting to guess whether someone’s decision was forced by the die roll is VERBOTEN. 

If you speak, take up to five minutes[1] to tell the group something important about yourself. Then, choose at least one of the categories below that matches what you said. Scoop a small amount of the corresponding delicious snack from the small bowls into the central bowl. (If you want, you can use these categories for inspiration, but don’t let them restrict you from saying something that matters.)


Struggles (Chocolate):

Challenges, burdens, things you’re tired of hiding, etc.


Joys (Raspberries):

Passions, guilty pleasures, “I love you guys” speeches, etc.


Background (Grapes):

Who you are, where you came from, why you are the way you are, etc.


Other (Blueberries):

Because trying to make an exhaustive list would be silly.


People in the group now have an opportunity to empathize. This is not a time to offer suggestions or critique; this is a time to connect with another human’s emotions.[2]  The speaker can choose to agree with or to correct people’s perceptions, if they wish. Keep reactions brief and focused on the speaker’s experience. Try not to have more than 2-3 reactions per speaker.

After the group’s reactions, or after you choose not to speak, the person to your left rolls their die and the process repeats.

Once everyone has had a chance to speak or not, the round is over. Shake hands with the people on either side of you and take five minutes to stretch. Then do the same thing again, beginning across the circle from where the previous round started. (e.g., if there are ten people, then start with the person who spoke fifth or sixth last time.)

After that, take five minutes to stretch, then begin the BONUS ROUND.

The BONUS ROUND is like the first two rounds, with one exception. If you haven’t spoken yet, do not roll your die. You MUST speak.

When the BONUS ROUND finishes, pass around the bowl of snacks assembled from the accumulated revelations and eat them. As this is happening, people will talk about how they felt during the ritual and how they feel at this moment. Once people have shared their reactions, or once all the snacks are eaten, Schelling Day is over. There is one final group hug, and then everyone goes home.[3]

[1] The facilitator will use a timer. We’re not trying to be jerks, but we want to keep things moving.


[2] If you’re familiar with Nonviolent Communication (NVC), that will give you a sense of what to do here. Some templates you might use:

“When you said that [repetition of what they said] I imagined that you were [guessed feeling] because you want [guessed need].” E.g., “When you said that were struggling to make it, I imagined that you feel desperate because you want stability and security.”

“When you were talking, I noticed that [observation of what you noticed them do] and I sensed that you were [guessed feeling] because you long for [guessed need].” E.g., “When you were talking, I noticed that you were rocking slightly back and forth, and I sensed that you had a lot of contained frustration inside you. I imagine the frustration comes from that you want help and you aren't getting that, and it's contained maybe because you fear that lashing out will make things worse.”


[3] Hanging out after the hug is VERBOTEN—remember the peak-end rule! If you want to eat a meal together, you could do it before the event starts. (Potlucks are good, since people get to visibly contribute to the group.) If you absolutely must do something with the same people, then do it in a different location. Convince your System 1 that Schelling Day is over, and now you’re doing something else.