Communication Exercises: Improve Communication and Listening Skills

barriers to effective communicationThe ability to effectively communicate is one of the more vital traits a person must possess in order to help others understand their concepts, wishes, desires, directives and feelings. Communication is a verbal as well as nonverbal activity and there’s an endless variety of ways in which people communicate with each other, either one-on-one or in groups or in a mass communications-type atmosphere.

If you’re unable to effectively communicate with others you may find yourself also unable to move up the career ladder, for one. Useful communication exercises do exist that can help individuals, groups and organizations to listen and communicate more effectively. Learning these skills and applying them will help you not only in your personal life, but your business life as well, as this course on improving your communications skills from Udemy shows.

Icebreaking is Often Key to Good Communication

Some people are naturally reticent or shy and may resist openly communicating with others. Communication experts have found that people hesitant to communicate sometimes open up once they’re more comfortable with the people around them they’ll be communicating with.

For the reticent, “breaking the ice” is often vital to useful communications. There are a number of different icebreaker-type communication exercises available to help the more reticent or hesitant among us open up and begin effectively communicating, fortunately enough.

Ideally, icebreaker-level communication exercises shouldn’t last more than 30 minutes, and many of them actually last only about 10 or so minutes. A good 10-15 minute icebreaker communication exercise may be just what a small organization needs when bringing its members together in an attempt to improve communication.

One popular icebreaker exercise when it comes to improving communication is the classification game. Lasting anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes, the classification game can be either a brief icebreaker or a more complex activity.

For example, suppose you have a group of 12 employees, all relatively new to each other. Using the classification game you can split your group of 12 employees into four groups of three, but before doing so explain to everybody what “pigeonholing a person” means.

Basically, when you pigeonhole someone you’ve classified or stereotyped him or her, and it’s a totally subjective – not objective – measure. To start the classification game have each of the three employees in your four groups introduce themselves to each member of their groups, quickly running through a few of their likes, dislikes and so forth. Doing so forms the basis of fundamental or basic conversation, and Udemy.com features several courses able to quickly improve such communication abilities.

Once your four groups of three employees have all discussed with their fellow group members a few things they like or dislike you can begin the classification game. First, reveal to the four groups that it’s their task to determine how they should classify themselves as a team, including into two or three sub-groups. It’s important that the employees in your groups don’t use prejudicial, negative or discriminatory judgments, because those too are subjective.

There are many different examples of the types of sub-groups that arise as a result of the classification game, including “baseball fans,” “workaholics,” “pizza lovers” and on and on. The benefit to the classification game is that it encourages participants to open up a bit about themselves, listen to others opening up as well and, finally, to avoid making subjective judgments about those around them. Subjectivity is frequently an enemy of good communications, and effective communication exercises always seeks to strip out subjectivity, teaching people to realize when they’re engaging in it while communicating.

Problem Solving Communication Exercises

Humans evolved partly due to a need to solve an endless variety of problems confronting them during prehistoric times. The ability to problem solve, in fact, was a key factor in setting early humans on the path to full self-awareness and essential humanity. Humans are also inveterate problem solvers and even the shyest among us will engage in problem solving, often communicating a variety of verbal and nonverbal cues to others around them while doing so.

Particularly effective communication exercises frequently involve some sort of problem solving event. Problem solving exercises to improve communication have the added benefit of being fairly brief when needed, sometimes taking only 10 minutes or so to complete, though other such exercises can run an hour or more.

A good example of a useful communication exercise of the problem solving variety is the sneak a peek game. The only materials you need for a quick game of sneak a peek is a simple set of children’s building blocks, in fact. To play sneak a peak, employees or people only need gather around while one person, usually the facilitator or instructor, builds a small sculpture using some of the blocks, taking care to hide the finished product from the group of people.

Once the building block sculpture has been completed, but still hidden from general view, the group should be divided into small teams, usually composed of four people. If you’re the facilitator overseeing the sneak a peek problem solving communication exercise, give enough blocks to each group so that they can duplicate the sculpture you built.

After your groups have their building blocks, place the block sculpture you created at an equal distance from each group, so as to avoid the appearance of favoritism. Allow one member from each group to come up, all at the same time, to examine your sculpture for 10 seconds before instructing them to return to their groups. Once the people that looked at your own block sculpture return to their groups and give them 25 seconds to instruct the other members of their group on building an exact replica of your own block structure.  Once they’ve instructed their groups, give them 1 minute to construct their sculpture.

Once your sneak a peek game groups have exhausted their one minute, have another member from each team come back up, sneak a peek at your own block sculpture, return to their groups and take another 25 seconds to instruct their fellow members in recreating your sculpture. Continue the sneak a peek communication game until one of the groups successfully recreates your own block sculpture.

Engaging in sneak a peek teaches participants the value of problem solving, sure enough, but it also teaches the value of communicating effectively and working as a team. At heart, problem solving is also all about creativity. Udemy.com delves into improving your problem solving ability, typically through communication, in a number of interesting courses.

Team Building Exercises to Improve Communication

Effective teams are quite often led by effective communicators, and the people on such teams typically develop, or already possess, effective communication skills themselves. There are many different teambuilding exercises that also act as communication exercises, often without the participants even realizing they’re honing their communication skills at the same time.

The military, in its own training programs, utilizes teambuilding exercises seemingly without stop, and some of them can take days to complete. There are, however, several quick team building exercises that can improve communication skills and that are a very brief as well.

One fun and effective team building and communication exercise is known as the office scavenger hunt, and is done using only small teams – all the better for creating a sense of fun as well as effective communication. As the scavenger hunt game facilitator, draw up a list of about 20 items you want your game’s participants, working in their teams, to find, along with a time limit for finding them.

Naturally, the scavenger hunting team bringing back the most items before the time limit expires will be the “winner.” Human nature being what it is, scavenging groups will include some people that really, really want to find everything, some that are ambivalent about finding items and others that will need a bit of persuasion to work within the team concept.

Successful scavenging, as a team, requires a great of communication and coordination, and the scavenger hunt game should be conducted in a spirit of fun and not ultra-competitiveness. Invariably, leaders and followers in a scavenger hunt team emerge and if you conduct this communication exercise regularly always ensure you mix up membership among the teams so that different people are working and communicating with each other in their teams.

You can also hide interesting items, or even reward-type items, such as free movie or dinner tickets or tokens that can be traded in for various prizes, especially when you’re first implementing these types of team building and communication exercises.

Teaching the Value of Listening

There’s often nothing more valuable to effective communication than the ability to effectively listen. Too often, people “talk past” each other and mistakenly believe they’re actually communicating, which they’re really not. Developing effective listening skills is crucial to developing overall communication skills, in fact, and there are many different communication exercises that can help cultivate listening abilities.

One simple yet effective listening exercise is known as “draw what you hear,” and it can be undertaken by just two people. Simply, give one of your draw-what-you-hear participants a pencil or other writing tool as well as some blank paper and have the other participant, sitting back-to-back rather than facing the drawer, describe to the drawer an abstract object or drawing you’ve provided.

Typically, participants in “draw what you hear” have about two minutes, with the person describing a given object providing the drawer all sorts of directions and descriptions. At the end of the two-minute period, have your participants compare what they’ve drawn to the actual object and discuss with them why there are differences between what they drew and what the object actually looks like (and there are always differences).

The objective of “draw what you hear” as a listening or communication exercise is to teach the value of good listening. Without the ability to see a person describing something to you, and that person unable to see what you’re drawing and thus correct your interpretation you’ll both soon enough learn to become keen listeners.

The benefit to draw what you hear is that it’s fun, simple, quick and can be done over and over again as often as participants would like. It creates an almost party like atmosphere and helps people to realize that there’s more to listening, and verbally communicating, than just talking past each other. Effectively speaking, clearly and concisely, always improves effective listening as well, and Udemy.com has available training that can improve your speaking AND listening skills which, at minimum, will help improve your communication skills.

Make Communication Exercises a Conscious Effort

Effective communication withers away if it’s not consistently emphasized, taught and engaged in with an eye towards improving it. It’s wise to always consider ways in which you can more effectively communicate as well as ways in which “your people” – be they employees, team members or most any other group in which you’re a participant – can communicate with you as well as between each other.

If you’re a leader, plan out regular communication exercises. If you’re unsure of your communication skills, or hesitant to communicate, looks for ways to improve your ability to communicate. At minimum, with the number of fun and useful communication exercises available (and there are hundreds) you’ll have a bit of fun in the doing. In addition, if you want to be a better communicator make use of Udemy.com to become a more effective and persuasive speaker, something vital to actually communicating effectively.