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50 Activities for Interpersonal Skills Training

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Activity 1: A Timely Reminder

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1 A Timely Reminder

DESCRIPTION

OBJECTIVES

This activity offers a more effective incentive to implement learning points acquired during the training course. The activity requires some postcourse work from the trainer.

By the end of this activity, participants will:

• Have completed a course of training.

• Have discussed learning points gained from

individual sessions and the program as a whole.

• Have agreed with the group on individual action

plans to implement at the workplace.

• Understand that at a given time in the future, they

will receive a “timely reminder” of what they agreed to do in order to make the training course worthwhile.

PARTICIPANTS

TIME

RESOURCES

Any number

30 to 60 minutes

• Paper and pen for each participant

• A stamped envelope for each participant

METHOD

AND NOTES

Step 1: Introduce the activity.

• Each participant will be asked to state at least one

positive learning point gained from the training they have just experienced. They will then be given paper and a pen and time to consider how the learning can be translated into real terms; i.e., how they intend to apply the training back at the workplace.

 

Activity 2: Actions Speak Louder

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50 Activities for Interpersonal Skills Training

METHOD

AND NOTES

Step 1: Introduce the activity without making explicit reference to the objectives.

• Explain that during the exercise, participants will

work in pairs, but that initially the group will be divided into two subgroups, A and B. The goals of the exercise will not be immediately clear to Group

B, which will be asked, in the first instance, to wait outside the course room.

• Group B will be left outside while their partners in

Group A are briefed. On their return to the course room, the exercise will begin.

• Inform participants that the exercise will be

recorded on videotape and that part of the exercise will include a playback that everyone will be able to view.

Step 2: Divide the group into pairs. Ask one person from each pair to wait outside the course room, and form Group B.

• If there is an odd number in the group, form one

triad. Ask two members of the triad to wait outside the course room.

Step 3: Outline the activity to those remaining in the course room, Group A.

 

Activity 3: Adjectival Alex

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3 Adjectival Alex

DESCRIPTION

OBJECTIVES

PARTICIPANTS

This light-hearted icebreaker may be used to start a course.

By the end of this activity, participants will have learned and remembered the names of the trainer(s) and the other participants.

• Any number

• Appropriate for participants who did not know each

other or each other’s first names prior to the course

TIME

10 minutes

RESOURCES

None

METHOD

AND NOTES

Step 1: Explain the objective of the activity.

• This is an adaptation of a children’s memory game

that is played in various guises: “Grandma’s suitcase,”

“I’m going on a trip,” or “I went to the zoo” where the first player says “I went to the zoo and I saw…” and names an animal. The second player repeats this and then adds another animal. The game continues, with each player taking turns naming the list of animals, in the correct order, and adding a new one.

• In this activity, participants sit in a circle with the

trainer. The participant to the left of the trainer states her or his first name, prefaced by an adjective with the same initial letter as the first name, e.g., desperate Dennis, jolly Julie, jaded Janet. Moving in a clockwise direction, the next participant must repeat the descriptive adjective and name she/he has just heard and add her/his own.

 

Activity 4: Against All Odds

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4 Against All Odds

DESCRIPTION

This activity helps those new to addressing groups to overcome distractions and to concentrate on content and presentation. This activity could be followed by

Activity 23.

OBJECTIVES

By the end of this activity, participants will be trained in the skill of maintaining concentration and making presentations well, in spite of distractions.

PARTICIPANTS

Any number

Anyone who needs to address a group of people formally (e.g., after-dinner speeches, reports at meetings, lectures, sales presentations)

TIME

RESOURCES

30 to 60 minutes

• Sufficient space and seating for the group to work in

independent triads

• Flipchart stand, paper, and markers

METHOD

AND NOTES

Step 1: Introduce the activity.

• One of the main fears expressed by people new to

public speaking is “I hope my mind doesn’t go blank and I can’t remember what I’m supposed to say.”

• Part of the answer to this problem is, of course, to

be well prepared. The presentation should be carefully planned: succinct notes made for easy reference during the talk and the actual presentation rehearsed so that the material, timing, etc., can be adjusted. With this amount of preparation beforehand, the chances of going blank are minimized.

 

Activity 5: Are we both OK?

PDF

5 Are we both OK?

DESCRIPTION

OBJECTIVES

This activity introduces participants to two of the fundamental concepts that form the basis of the effective development and use of interpersonal skills.

By the end of this activity, participants will:

• Understand four life stances (the “OK Corral”).

• Be able to recognize the characteristics of each stance.

• Understand some basic rights in interpersonal

relationships.

• Be able to build more effective interpersonal

relationships.

PARTICIPANTS

TIME

6 to 20 participants; any type

1 hour and 15 minutes

RESOURCES

One copy each of Handouts 5.1, 5.2, and 5.3 for each participant

METHOD

AND NOTES

Step 1: Introduce the activity.

• This activity introduces two concepts. The first is

the “OK Corral” and the second is a “bill of rights.”

Step 2: Distribute Handout 5.1 and take participants through each quadrant of the “OK Corral” and the examples and the characteristics.

• Allow 10 minutes for this.

• Each of the four stances (represented by the four

quadrants of the “OK Corral”) represents the way a person (or persons) relates to others. This stance concerns not just the language we use; it reflects the attitudes, thoughts, feelings, and behavior in force at any one time. Language is largely a vehicle for expressing these stances.

 

Activity 6: Belonging

PDF

6 Belonging

DESCRIPTION

OBJECTIVES

This activity demonstrates the diversity of teams to which everyone belongs and demonstrates an individual’s strengths and weaknesses as a team member.

By the end of this activity, participants will:

• Have identified the teams to which they belong or

have belonged.

• Understand the various and varying factors

necessary for “belonging” to teams.

• Have experienced the need for various criteria to be

met before teams function efficiently.

• Have had the opportunity to measure their own

strengths and weaknesses as team members.

PARTICIPANTS

TIME

RESOURCES

6 to 20 participants; any type

1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours

• Enough space and seating for the whole group to

work together and for subgroups to work on flipchart sheets

• Flipchart stand and markers

• Sheets of flipchart paper and marker for each

subgroup

• Adhesive tape or other means of attaching flipchart

sheets to the wall

METHOD

AND NOTES

Step 1: Explain the activity to the participants.

• Most people have limited ideas of what teams are.

 

Activity 7: Circulating

PDF

7 Circulating

DESCRIPTION

OBJECTIVES

This is an icebreaking activity that also enables the trainer to focus participants’ attention on the training session content. This does require some advance preparation (see Trainer’s Notes, p. 44). After introductions, this should be the first activity of a course.

By the end of this activity, participants will:

• Have communicated with other course members.

• Have experienced low-risk self-disclosure.

• Have voiced their opinions to one other person on

training session topics.

• Have begun to consider elements of the course that

will be followed up in later sessions.

PARTICIPANTS

Any number, any type

TIME

60 minutes maximum

RESOURCES

• Enough floor space for participants to form inner

and outer concentric circles (see illustration in

Trainer’s Notes). If there is enough space for chairs too, so much the better.

• Set of prepared questions (see Trainer’s Notes).

METHOD

AND NOTES

Step 1: Divide the group into two, asking Group A to form a circle facing outward toward the walls of the course room, and Group B to form an outer circle facing inward so that each Group B participant is face-toface with a member of Group A.

 

Activity 8: Course Contract

PDF

8 Course Contract

DESCRIPTION

OBJECTIVES

This activity may be used at the beginning of any course, but is probably most appropriate at those which last more than one day and which focus— entirely or in part—on interpersonal skills. It may be used to help establish a climate of mutual respect among participants and between participants and the trainer. It establishes an interpersonal skills model that should influence the way all participants interact for the rest of the course.

By the end of this activity, participants will:

• Have considered, discussed, negotiated, and agreed

to mutually acceptable forms of interpersonal behavior to be practiced by participants and the trainer throughout the course.

• Have agreed to be bound by the group contract.

• Be aware of the group’s responsibility for

upholding the contract.

PARTICIPANTS

TIME

Up to 20 participants; any type

40 minutes

RESOURCES

Flipchart stand, paper, and markers

METHOD

AND NOTES

Step 1: Brief the group on the nature of the activity and the reasons for it.

 

Activity 9: Crossed Lines

PDF

9 Crossed Lines

DESCRIPTION

OBJECTIVES

This activity uses one of the basic ideas from Transactional Analysis (TA) to consider why communication between people is sometimes more difficult than expected.

By the end of this activity, participants will:

• Understand the concept of ego states.

• Be able to analyze transactions between people in

terms of ego states.

• Be able to identify transactions that are “smooth” and those that are not.

• Be able to improve interpersonal communications.

PARTICIPANTS

• 6 to 20 participants

• Any type, although the technique’s application is

most likely to be of practical benefit to managers and supervisors

TIME

60 minutes

RESOURCES

One copy each of Handouts 9.1, 9.2, and 9.3 for each participant

METHOD

AND NOTES

Step 1: Introduce the activity.

• Transactional Analysis (TA) was developed by Eric

Berne in the 1950s. It is a theory of personality and of communication and is thus very useful as an interpersonal skills tool.

Step 2: Distribute Handout 9.1. Explain the concept of ego states.

 

Activity 10: Crosstalk

PDF

10 Crosstalk

DESCRIPTION

OBJECTIVES

A very simple way of analyzing the number of interactions between participants of a small group, this activity highlights patterns that can be used to stimulate discussion.

By the end of this activity, participants will:

• Be familiar with the sociogram technique and how

to use it.

• Have observed patterns of interactions in a small

group.

• Be able to suggest interpersonal factors that

influence such patterns.

PARTICIPANTS

TIME

RESOURCES

8 to 12 participants; suitable for anyone, although the technique’s most obvious application is for those who regularly work in groups or attend meetings

90 minutes

• One copy of Handout 10.1 for each participant

• Seating for six people who will form a discussion

group, plus seating for the rest of the group as observers

• Flipchart stand, paper, and markers

METHOD

AND NOTES

Step 1: Introduce the activity.

• Between 4 (minimum) and 6 (maximum) partici-

pants will be asked to have a discussion on a topic of their choice, which will be observed by the rest of the group. The activity will introduce a very simple analytical tool that anyone can use who wishes to maximize a working group or meeting’s creativity and effectiveness.

 

Activity 11: Don’t Make an ASS of U and ME

PDF

11

Don’t Make an ASS of U and ME

DESCRIPTION

OBJECTIVES

This activity focuses on assumptions, presumptions, and stereotyping, and how they can affect interpersonal relationships.

By the end of this activity, participants will:

• Realize that everyone makes value judgments

against arbitrary criteria.

• Recognize the range of criteria against which indi-

viduals can be assessed.

• Have begun to acknowledge areas where prejudg-

ment can result in unreasonable bias, prejudice, or discrimination.

• See that stereotyping and assumptions can alter our

opinions of individuals, which may sometimes affect communication, and interpersonal relationships can suffer as a result.

PARTICIPANTS

TIME

RESOURCES

6 to 20 participants; any type

1 to 2 hours

• Space and seating for full group discussion and for

three groups to work independently

• Flipchart paper and markers for group work

• Adhesive tape or other means of attaching flipchart

paper to wall

METHOD

AND NOTES

Step 1: Introduce the activity.

• This activity concerns assumptions and stereotyp-

 

Activity 12: Down the Line

PDF

12 Down the Line

DESCRIPTION

OBJECTIVES

This activity introduces participants to some basic principles of delegation.

By the end of this activity, participants will:

• Understand the basic principles of effective delegation.

• Understand the individual, team, and organizational

impact of ineffective delegation.

• Be able to analyze their own delegation practice and

to improve and monitor it.

PARTICIPANTS

TIME

RESOURCES

• 6 to 20 participants

• Managers and supervisors

60 minutes

• Prepared flipchart as specified in Trainer’s Notes

• Flipchart stand, paper, and markers

• One piece of flipchart paper and marker for each of

two groups

METHOD

AND NOTES

Step 1: Introduce the activity.

• Refer to the objectives.

Step 2: Reveal the prepared flipchart (see Trainer’s

Notes). Ask the group to agree on which statement in the “consequence” column matches one in the

“approach” column (the items are not in paired order).

• Allow 10 minutes for this step.

• It is a lighthearted introduction to styles of delega-

tion, but it provides a useful introduction and focus.

 

Activity 13: Fact or Fiction?

PDF

13 Fact or fiction?

DESCRIPTION

OBJECTIVES

This is a simple exercise in logic and inference that enables participants to understand the ease with which assumptions can be made, based on insufficient factual information and the consequences of acting on such assumptions.

By the end of this activity, participants will:

• Be aware that it is very easy to “read between the

lines” and make assumptions about people and situations that have no basis in fact.

• Understand the dangers of making assumptions.

• Be able to guard against communication

breakdowns due to false assumptions.

PARTICIPANTS

TIME

Any number; suitable for basic communication or interpersonal skills courses

60 minutes

RESOURCES

One copy of Handout 13.1 for each participant

METHOD

AND NOTES

Step 1: Explain the procedure and timing of the exercise.

• The group will be divided into pairs (form one triad

if there is an odd number of participants). Each participant will be given a copy of Handout 13.1.

• Allow a few minutes for everyone to read the first

 

Activity 14: A Gift from the Group

PDF

14 A Gift from the Group

DESCRIPTION

OBJECTIVES

This activity ends any course during which the elements of supportiveness and trust have been developed between course members.

By the end of this activity, participants will:

• Have given positive written feedback to each of

their colleagues.

• Be in possession of a “gift”—a written affirmation

of their positive qualities as perceived by their fellow participants.

PARTICIPANTS

• Ideally, no more than 8 participants; if used with a

larger group, divide into two or more subgroups of up to 8 members

• The activity is especially relevant to self-

development courses, or one where personal awareness and confidence raising are key issues

TIME

30 minutes

RESOURCES

METHOD

AND NOTES

Step 1: Explain the purpose of the activity.

One sheet of 8½ x 11 paper for each participant

Pencil/pen for each participant

Metal clip for each participant

Clipboard or some other means for laptop writing

Seating in a fairly tight circle

• This activity is designed to conclude a course. At

 

Activity 15: Giving Feedback

PDF

15 Giving Feedback

DESCRIPTION

OBJECTIVES

This activity should be conducted toward the end of any course; it identifies the positive advantages of giving and receiving feedback, while recognizing the risks involved. It offers tips on providing effective feedback and gives participants the opportunity to practice both giving and receiving feedback.

By the end of this activity, participants will:

• Be aware of the advantages of receiving feedback

on request, not just after interviews or at appraisal.

• Be conscious of the pitfalls involved in giving

feedback and aware of methods of minimizing these risks.

• Have practiced giving and receiving feedback.

• Have derived learning points from this exercise and

be able to offer suggestions on the practicalities of giving feedback in the workplace.

PARTICIPANTS

TIME

RESOURCES

Any number, any type

90 minutes

• Space and seating for the entire group discussions,

and for participants to work in pairs (because of the nature of the exercise, the pairs need to be spread out so that they are not overheard by colleagues)

 

Activity 16: Hole in the Middle

PDF

16 Hole in the Middle

DESCRIPTION

OBJECTIVES

This activity provides a focus for looking at issues of power and how they operate in organizations, between groups, and between individuals. The original concept, which we have adapted, belongs to Arthur Shedlin and

Warren H. Schmidt.

By the end of this activity, participants will:

• Be aware of how power and influence operate in

organizations, between groups, and between individuals.

• Be able to identify sources of power and the means

by which power is exerted (influence).

• Be alert to the dangers that exist when group or

individual perceptions of power are different or simply not recognized.

PARTICIPANTS

TIME

RESOURCES

• 8 to 10 participants (maximum)

• Managers and supervisors

1 hour and 15 minutes

• Two rooms where two groups can have discussions

without risk of being overheard by each other

• One copy of Handout 16.1 for each participant in

the Action Team

• One copy of Handout 16.2 for each participant in

the Strategy Team

• One copy of Handout 16.3 for each participant

 

Activity 17: How shall I tell them?

PDF

17 How shall I tell them?

DESCRIPTION

OBJECTIVES

Through this activity, participants are allowed to explore the relative advantages and disadvantages of the three main types of communication.

By the end of this activity, participants will:

• Be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of

the three main types of communication and the importance of the context in deciding which to use.

• Be able to decide upon the most appropriate form of

communication to be used in given circumstances.

PARTICIPANTS

TIME

RESOURCES

6 to 20 participants; any type

45 minutes

• One copy each of Handouts 17.1 and 17.2 for each

participant

• Three sheets of flipchart paper and three markers

• Flipchart stand, paper, and markers

METHOD

AND NOTES

Step 1: Introduce the activity.

• Make reference to the objectives. You might wish to

ask the group to identify the three main types of communication, which are

written (to include letters and memos, reports, fax, e-mail, etc.); telephone; and face-to-face.

Step 2: Distribute Handout 17.1. As a full group, discuss and agree on the answers.

 

Activity 18: I wish you hadn’t asked me that!

PDF

18

I wish you hadn’t asked me that!

DESCRIPTION

OBJECTIVES

A technique is provided through this activity for dealing effectively with questions and remarks that are perceived as personally intrusive.

By the end of this activity, participants will:

• Be familiar with the concepts of aggressive, passive,

and assertive responses to intrusive questions.

• Be able to distinguish between these responses.

• Be able to deal effectively with questions that are

felt to be personally intrusive.

PARTICIPANTS

TIME

6 to 12 participants; any type

90 minutes

RESOURCES

One copy each of Handouts 18.1 and 18.2 for each participant

METHOD

AND NOTES

Step 1: Introduce the activity.

• Assertive responses are not to be confused with

aggressive responses. Assertive responses respect the rights of all concerned in an exchange and this activity will help participants be clear about the true nature of assertive behavior.

Step 2: Distribute Handout 18.1. Discuss the concepts of aggressive, passive, and assertive behavior.

• Allow 15 minutes.

 

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