CEO Series

This M’sian Made A Box Of Cards That Can Turn Strangers Into BFFs In 30 Minutes

  • Tribeless is a global movement and experience design firm that aims to create safe spaces for open and honest conversation. 
  • Tribeless has tools such as The Empathy Box which is a simple but powerful structure for diverse groups of people to talk about intimate, often difficult things, from bonding sessions with your friends to honest talks with your boss.

Growing up can be harsh on some of us as we struggle to find ourselves and to find who we really are. This becomes especially clear when you go somewhere new in your life’s journey, such as when I was in university.

I didn’t feel like I belonged to any group; they all had their own clique and identity, while I had none. That did change, but it took time and effort.

One way to create valuable relationships is through meaningful conversations where there are no boundaries—only respect. This was the foundation of Tribeless, the brainchild of Gwen Yi and her partner in both work and life, Shawn Cheng, along with a third co-founder who has since left.

A Fresh Start

The Empathy Box/ Image Credit: Tribeless

For those who are wondering what exactly is Tribeless, Gwen Yi sums it up as a global movement and experience design firm that creates safe spaces for open, honest conversation.

“We empower everyday people with the tools (The Empathy Box) and knowledge (empathy-based facilitation training) they need to have the conversations that matter with the people that matter.”

Just like what I went through, Gwen had a hard time finding herself especially when she was overseas.

“I had just returned home from San Francisco, where I was battling depression and social anxiety. I had no friends, no work, no identity—I literally had to rebuild my life from scratch,” said Gwen Yi.

“I hosted my first Tribeless gathering in September 2016. I didn’t know it at that time, but that hodgepodge gathering of strangers was my lifeline. For the first time, I didn’t have to pretend like everything was OK; I could be wholly, authentically me––and everyone else followed suit.”

“There was a magic to opening up, to being vulnerable, to processing your life with strangers turned friends. So I did it. Again and again. We haven’t stopped since,” she added.

Thinking Outside The Box

As Tribeless is the brainchild of Gwen Yi, she has a personal attachment to it and it is a highly personal endeavour.

“My biggest challenge is an ongoing one—learning how to draw clear emotional boundaries between myself and my business. For the longest time, I didn’t dare make big decisions or take significant risks, for fear of failing and tarnishing Tribeless’ (and therefore, my) reputation.”

However, she has been able to overcome it and move forward.

“Today, I know that I am more than my company. The mistakes we make will definitely hurt, but they won’t destroy me, and that’s enough to keep me bold, ambitious and going,” said Gwen Yi.

After a year of testing with over 80 nationalities from 5 continents, the first 250 Empathy Boxes are ready for pre-order. The Empathy Box is designed to be highly re-playable, customisable and culturally agnostic.

Image Credit: Tribeless

“You’ll have the perfect tool for any occasion, from bonding with your family to honest talks with your boss to connecting with strangers on the road.”

The Vulcan Post team also gave the Empathy Box a try, and in 15 minutes, we were pouring our hearts out and being more open with each other than we’ve ever been before, so we can personally attest to its effectiveness.

Tribeless has reached 17 cities across 11 countries, and all of this was done without any marketing.

Self-Reflection

It was also a journey for her own self personally as Gwen Yi personally feels she has grown as a leader, lover and facilitator.

“With the Box, I found the courage to heal my relationships with my family—with my mom and sister, whom I’ve always used as my emotional ‘punching bag’; and with my dad, whom I’d been estranged from for 2.5 years.”

Gwen Yi explaining Tribeless/ Image Credit: Tribeless

“With the Box, I’ve developed much stronger bonds with friends, new and old; I used it to deepen my friendships, build a support system, and even convert ‘non-believers’ into our strongest advocates.”

The most important lesson was that she learnt to love herself.

“I faced my demons head-on, and emerged on the other side of it. I’ve always struggled with communicating my needs and setting my boundaries, but Tribeless has taught me that I need to take care of myself before I can serve others. It’s a lifelong process, but I’m thankful to be on this journey with everyone.”

The Dream Of Tribeless

Shawn briefing participants/ Image Credit: Tribeless

Tribeless plans to build a movement from the ground-up. The team hopes to help everyone have the tools and knowledge to create safe spaces for open, honest conversation in their communities.

“That’s why each Empathy Box will come with an educational video so they gain a deeper understanding of what it takes to hold space and have these kinds of conversations. Hopefully, this will inspire more people to join us as official Tribeless Hosts and spread Tribeless Conversations far and wide,” said Gwen Yi.

Editor’s Note: The previous sentence was amended to clarify that an educational video will be included.

“We also hope to bring empathy-based communication workshops into more institutions and organisations, where openness and honesty is an important part of their growth.”

For her final thoughts, she hopes that she would be able to make a difference in the world.

“To help you change your world, one conversation at a time.”

  • To learn more about Tribeless and what they are currently working on you can check out their Facebook here and website here.

Feature Image Credit: Gwen Yi on Facebook

Subscribe to Vulcan Post Newsletter

Stay updated with our weekly curated news and updates.