The Label Game

This label game is designed to help you get used to using labels and mirrors. I got the idea from a workshop Chris Voss did and adapted it a bit. Please let me know if there’s anything that doesn’t make sense.


A basic label is a single sentence observation, question, or statement that is phrased as “it seems like…”“it sounds like…”“it feels like…”, or “it looks like…”.

A mirror is repeating the last or most important few words that someone says with an upward inflection to your voice at the end like you’re asking a question.

If someone walked up to you and said, “avocado toast” without explanation, you might naturally respond with:

“Avocado toast?”

That’s a mirror.

Pause for a few seconds after using a label or mirror to give the other person time to respond.

If you still see them thinking after a few seconds, being silent and “letting thinkers think” is usually a good policy*.


There are two roles in the game:

The labeler and the responder.

The labeler is only allowed to use labels or mirrors. They cannot say anything else.

The responder is to respond to those labels or mirrors.

How to Play

To begin the game, ask someone if they are willing to do an exercise with you to help you learn some active listening skills.

Explain labels and mirrors to them and then explain the game itself.

Ask them if there is anything that doesn’t make sense about any of that. Tell them you’ll be the labeler and set a timer for two minutes, then begin.

Keep using labels and mirrors until the timer runs out. You can repeat this as many times as you want and switch roles if the other person wants to practice too.

You don’t have to stop when the timer goes off if you want to keep the conversation going. You don’t even need to set the timer. It just seems like a 2 minute game is easy to commit to.

You can think of two or three labels relevant to the other person before you begin the label game if you want to make it easier.

One of my friends said, “It sounds like Jeopardy. You’re putting your sentences in a particular format.”**

I didn’t even realize he was labeling at first. I just responded to his label. It was so natural.


Labeling can feel awkward when you start, but if you keep practicing, it will eventually become automatic.

It’s one thing to read about the concepts and it’s another to put them into practice. This “game” lets you practice when the stakes are low. Tomorrow we’ll look at more examples of labels.

Please leave a comment if you get stuck, have a question, or otherwise want help.


*Some talkative people require a different approach if they don’t give you a chance to talk, but the general principle is “Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise” (Proverbs 17:28)

**This is a paraphrase of what he said.


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