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50 Communications Activities, Icebreakers, and Exercises

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Have fun presenting these activities and build your employees' communication skills in just minutes. Communication plays such a big part in our lives today. Yet sometimes we get busy and forget just how important communication is to our success, relationships and happiness. 50 Communication Activities, Icebreakers and Activities is a great way to: Increase participants' awareness of how they communicate; Help them to build expertise in a variety of essential skills and competencies; Prepare them to deal effectively with the many types of communication challenges they face every day. Each activity focuses on some facet of communication and includes a description, time guideline, purpose, resources, presentation, debrief, difficulty rating and variations to make implementation easy. Each individual activity takes only minutes to complete. Together this collection contains a wealth of insight, tips and guidance to prepare employees to become confident communicators who enjoy stronger relationships and greater success and satisfaction on the job.

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Activity 1. Communications Is an Art

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1. Communications Is an Art

Description

This activity explains that communications is much more of an art than a science. There is no one right or wrong way to communicate—no set of absolute rules to be followed.

Time Guideline

20 minutes

Purpose

To emphasize to participants that each of us communicates in our own style and in ways most comfortable and effective for each of us. Like art, communications can take on unlimited forms and variations, each unique to the person engaged in the communications.

Resources

Handout 1-A

Presentation

1. Present Handout 1-A to participants.

2. Ask participants if they agree or disagree with this statement and why.

3. Explain that communications does have certain principles and procedures (see other activities in Part I of this book). There are specific, sound principles and themes, but thousands of variations.

4. However, there is no right or wrong way to communicate effectively.

5. Everyone has their own communications style, and there are thousands and thousands of variations to effective communications. What is most important is that people communicate in a sincere and honest manner with one another, in a style in which they are most comfortable. Few if any people can communicate effectively in a manner or style that does not fit them personally or naturally.

 

Activity 2. Communicating Time

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2. Communicating Time

Description

The amount of time we spend communicating with others is presented in this activity.

Time Guideline

20 minutes

Purpose

To highlight the great amount of time we actually spend communicating with others

Resources

Handout 2-A

Presentation

1. Ask participants how much time they think they actually spend communicating with others.

2. Allow the group to provide their estimates.

Write the estimates on a flip chart or piece of paper.

3. Present Handout 2-A. Emphasize the statistics presented in this handout: 70% of your total waking time is spent communicating in some manner. Of this time you spend communicating, you spend approximately 16% reading, 9% writing, 30% talking, and 45% listening.

4. Ask participants if they are surprised by these estimates of the average time that people spend communicating, especially the 45% listening statistic.

5. Point out that these percentages may vary from person to person. For example, some people may spend much more than 30% of their communications time talking and much less time listening!

 

Activity 3. Communications Is the Key

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3. Communications Is the Key

Description

This activity consists of an interactive discussion about the importance of communications in the workplace.

Time Guideline

20 minutes

Purpose

To highlight the importance of communications in solving problems at work

Resources

Handout 3-A

Presentation

1. Present Handout 3-A, which states the following: Communications is the key to achieving all of our goals.

2. Ask participants if they agree or disagree with this statement. You can expect that all or most participants will agree with this statement.

3. Ask participants why they believe this is true.

Expect participants to volunteer any number of reasons.

4. Ask participants if they can think of a situation or problem in which communications was not critically important.

5. Challenge participants to thoroughly explain how better communications would not be necessary to correct the situation or problem.

Debrief

Emphasize again that communications affects virtually everything that happens in organizations. Communications can be one of the greatest strengths of an organization or one of its biggest weaknesses. Ask participants to specifically discuss how communications is important in their jobs.

 

Activity 4. I Know You Believe You Understand

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4. I Know You Believe

You Understand

Description

A quote is presented to participants, and they are asked to explain what they believe its meaning is.

Time Guideline

20 minutes

Purpose

To highlight how unclear communications can lead to confusing interpretations and to emphasize the need for clarity when communicating

Resources

Handout 4-A

Presentation

1. Present Handout 4-A to participants and ask them what they think the statement means.

2. Expect participants to have differing interpretations, if any, of this very confusing statement.

3. There obviously is not a clear explanation for this statement. Apparently, this speaker was trying to say something about being misunderstood, but it is unclear what he or she was really trying to say.

4. Reveal the source of this quote and expect comments from participants about trying to communicate with a government agency or official to resolve a problem or to cut through government red tape.

Debrief

Discuss what problems are created by these types of communications. Emphasize how much confusion ambiguous communications like this can cause in an organization. Ask participants to remember this quote when they are communicating with others as an example of how important clarity of communication is to being understood.

 

Activity 5. Communications Model

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5. Communications Model

Description

A communications model is presented to help participants better understand what actually needs to occur for effective communications to exist.

Time Guideline

30 minutes

Purpose

To provide a conceptual model for participants to follow to help them become better communicators

Resources

Handout 5-A

Presentation

1. Present Handout 5-A and explain that this represents a model showing how effective communications can be achieved. Although this may seem like a cumbersome process to go through, this model is used in some manner by many people in all of their communications.

2. Go through the four steps shown in the model. Highlight that in this model there is a

SENDER and a RECEIVER.

3. Start with the SENDER, and point out that the first step in the communications process involves the SENDER sending the message to the RECEIVER. Explain that even at this early step in the process, many problems can occur. For instance, the message may not be clearly communicated by the SENDER. This could be a function of the SENDER’s communication skills or even the effort that this person puts forth to communicate clearly.

 

Activity 6. Listening Dilemma

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6. Listening Dilemma

Description

Interesting facts are presented concerning the rate of words that we are able to hear versus the rate at which we speak and the dilemma this presents.

Time Guideline

20 minutes

Purpose

To help participants understand why listening is such a big challenge for most people

Resources

Handout 6-A

Presentation

1. Distribute or present Handout 6-A to participants.

2. Explain that listening is a big challenge because you spend so much of your communications time listening—over 45%. If you are not a good listener, you will be a less effective communicator.

3. Explain that the average person speaks at about a rate of 150 words per minute (wpm).

The problem is that we can hear at about a rate of 1,000 wpm. This obviously gives us a lot of extra time.

4. Ask participants what they do with this extra time. It is likely that they will say that they think about other things rather than what the other person is saying.

5. This is a big problem for many people and the reason why they are not good listeners. This creates the listening dilemma.

 

Activity 7. Interactive Listening Tips

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7. Interactive Listening Tips

Description

Five interactive listening tips are presented to help participants learn to become better listeners.

Time Guideline

20 minutes

Purpose

To provide a quick and easy-to-remember list of suggestions to help participants become better listeners

Resources

Handout 7-A

Presentation

1. Distribute or present Handout 7-A.

2. Review these listening tips: a) Paraphrase the message to the speaker in order to confirm your understanding.

Explain that by putting the message in your own words, you concentrate more on what was said, making you listen better. b) Repeat the message to help you remember what was said.

Explain that by doing this to the other person’s satisfaction that you have heard his or her message correctly, you ensure that you not only are listening but really understand what was said. c) Probe for missing information.

Explain that by requesting or asking questions, you find out any information that may have been missing in the communications or that you need or want. d) Clarify any points that you might not completely understand.

 

Activity 8. Listening Bad Habits

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8. Listening Bad Habits

Description

A list of listening bad habits is presented for participants to evaluate their listening skills.

Time Guideline

30 minutes

Purpose

To help participants better understand areas in which they can improve their listening deficiencies

Resources

Handout 8-A

Presentation

1. Distribute Handout 8-A to participants and ask them to complete it.

2. Explain that each participant will use this list of listening bad habits to honestly evaluate his or her listening skills or lack thereof.

3. Explain that participants are to check the bad habits they may be sometimes guilty of committing when communicating with others.

4. Emphasize that most people have some problems being good listeners and these bad habits are not unusual for people to demonstrate.

Debrief

Emphasize again that most people are, at least from time to time, guilty of many or most of these listening bad habits. The most important thing is to be aware of your tendency to fall into these bad habits and consciously try to avoid making these mistakes. Tell participants not to be too hard on themselves if they check many or even all of these bad habits. It is all part of human nature!

 

Activity 9. Listening Questionnaire

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9. Listening Questionnaire

Description

A listening test is presented to participants to measure their effectiveness as listeners.

Time Guideline

30 minutes

Purpose

To help participants better understand their weaknesses and strengths as listeners

Resources

Handouts 9-A and 9-B

Presentation

1. Distribute Handout 9-A to participants.

2. Ask participants to evaluate their listening skills.

3. Tell participants to write the number in the column that most accurately describes their listening skills for each of the seven statements.

4. Point out that the best score for each statement is 5, indicating that the participant never has that particular listening problem.

5. Give participants about 5 minutes to complete the questionnaire.

6. After participants have completed the questionnaire, display the scoring key in Handout

9-B.

7. Have participants total the number of points for the seven statements. A perfect score is

35 points.

8. Ask if anyone had a perfect score.

9. Review the scoring ranges for being an effective listener, good listener, and not-so-good listener, and if anyone scores less than 13 points, their listening skills might be best described as HUH?

 

Activity 10. Seven Levels of Listening

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10. Seven Levels of Listening

Description

Seven levels of listening, from the lowest level to the highest, are presented.

Time Guideline

20 minutes

Purpose

To illustrate that there are different levels of listening that can determine how effectively you communicate with others

Resources

Handout 10-A

Presentation

1. Distribute Handout 10-A and review the seven levels of listening.

2. Point out that each involves greater levels of involvement and commitment to listening on the part of the listener.

3. Give examples of each type of listening from your own experiences. For instance, ask participants if they have ever experienced level

1 or level 2 listening when someone just was not listening to them when they had something to say. Or ask if they have ever been given only part of someone’s attention when trying to communicate with another person.

Ask participants how that made them feel.

4. Explain that levels 5 through 7 require higher, more involved listening skills. Explain that the last three levels of listening involve not just hearing the words but trying to understand the meaning behind them from the other person’s perspective as well as your own.

 

Activity 11. Silent Messages

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11. Silent Messages

Description

The concept of what happens when one doesn’t communicate or say anything is explored in this activity.

Time Guideline

20 minutes

Purpose

To explain that not communicating sometimes sends a stronger message than if you did say something

Resources

None

Presentation

1. Explain that many times when we think we are not communicating we are actually sending a very strong message. These are the

“silent” messages that sometimes get inadvertently sent to others.

2. Make the point that often when we say “nothing” we are actually saying a lot.

3. Being silent and not saying anything may actually be sending a strong message to others. This is particularly true for supervisors, managers, or anyone in a position of authority. For example, if you see inappropriate or unproductive behaviors by employees and don’t say or do anything to correct the situation, you are actually saying a great deal. Your lack of communications could be misinterpreted as condoning these behaviors.

This may be completely opposite of your intent.

 

Activity 12. The Three Levels of Communications

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12. The Three Levels of

Communications

Description

This activity presents statistics relating to the way we receive communications and the true messages being sent by others.

Time Guideline

30 minutes

Purpose

To help participants understand what an important part nonverbal behaviors and voice inflections play in how we both send and receive messages

Resources

Handouts 12-A and 12-B

Presentation

1. Introduce the activity by explaining that when we communicate face-to-face with others, we receive messages on three basic levels: vocabulary, voice inflections, and nonverbal behaviors. Distribute or present

Handout 12-A.

2. Explain that vocabulary messages consist of the actual words we use to communicate with others.

3. Explain that voice inflections consist of the way that someone says something. This would include tone, speed, emotions, pace, volume, etc. The way someone says something can dramatically change the meaning of the words being spoken.

4. Finally explain that nonverbal behaviors include the body language, facial expressions, gestures, etc., that someone might use while communicating with others.

 

Activity 13. Nonverbal Listening Test

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13. Nonverbal Listening Test

Description

A brief test is presented to help participants better understand the importance of nonverbal communications.

Time Guideline

30 minutes

Purpose

To emphasize how critical it is to be aware of nonverbal communications in our interactions with others

Resources

Handout 13-A

Pen or pencil for each participant

Presentation

1. Distribute Handout 13-A to participants.

2. Introduce the activity as a test of participants’ understanding of nonverbal communications.

3. Instruct participants to spend the next 5 minutes completing this brief test.

4. Allow participants time to complete the test.

5. After everyone has completed the test, review the suggested correct answers. Ask participants to correct their own tests if they have marked the wrong answers.

Answers

1) Communications other than the actual words spoken; includes all forms of body language, eye contact, and other cues that one might send that give indications of what the person is really communicating

2) Examples: smiling, maintaining eye contact, arms unfolded

 

Activity 14. The Laws of Remembering

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14. The Laws of Remembering

Description

This activity involves introducing participants to the Laws of Remembering, which consist of four principles concerning how we remember things.

Time Guideline

20 minutes

Purpose

To provide tips to participants to help them remember information better

Resources

Handout 14-A

Presentation

1. Present Handout 14-A to participants. Introduce the Laws of Remembering, which can help participants become better at remembering.

2. Review each of these principles.

3. First, explain to participants that we remember best what we heard last or heard most recently. This is why we often repeat the most important part of the message before ending a conversation with someone or giving instructions: “And don’t forget, you need to make sure that you…” is often said in these circumstances.

4. Next, explain that we also remember information that we hear most frequently. This helps keep this information in our minds. This is why we remember things that we come in contact with every day, such as work procedures, names of people we see regularly, etc.

 

Activity 15. The Laws of Forgetting

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15. The Laws of Forgetting

Description

This activity involves presenting to participants the Laws of Forgetting, including some of the reasons why people tend to forget.

Time Guideline

20 minutes

Purpose

To provide participants with factors that often influence why we forget things

Resources

Handout 15-A

Presentation

1. Present Handout 15-A to participants to introduce the Laws of Forgetting.

2. Explain that these principles help us better understand why we forget things.

3. Review each of the three points on the handout. Begin by asking participants why it is actually good that we don’t remember everything that we hear.

4. The answer is that we simply can’t retain all the information we receive on a daily basis.

We need to forget information so that new information can be remembered—much the same way as memory in a computer.

5. When explaining the last point, ask participants what “adding things that were never said in the first place” reminds them of. The answer should be rumors. See Activity 44 for an exercise on rumors.

 

Activity 16. Meaning of Words

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16. Meaning of Words

Description

Different definitions of the same word are presented as examples of how a single word can have multiple meanings.

Time Guideline

20 minutes

Purpose

To emphasize that even the same word can be interpreted and misinterpreted in many different ways. This is just another reason why effective communications is such a big challenge and often so difficult to achieve. Understanding this can help us be more aware of this challenge and better able to deal with different interpretations of words when they arise in our daily communications and interactions with others.

Resources

Handout 16-A

Presentation

1. Distribute or present Handout 16.A.

2. Review the different interpretations for the word fast as described in Handout 16-A.

3. Ask participants if they can think of any additional meanings or interpretations.

4. Discuss the challenge that this presents to being able to clearly communicate with others. Ask participants how this communication challenge can best be met.

5. Expect to hear suggestions that relate to telling others what your interpretation is of words or concepts that you are communicating to others. Asking others for their interpretation or understanding of certain words or concepts that might easily be misunderstood is another good communication technique.

 

Activity 17. Communications Circles

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50 Communications Activities, Icebreakers, and Exercises

4. The next level is information that an employee should know but doesn’t have to in order to perform the job. However, receiving this information can help an employee perform better, and they also appreciate being in the

“know” about this type of information. There is no guarantee that this level of communication is always achieved since employees don’t have to have this information to do their jobs.

This level of information may just help them perform their jobs.

5. The next circle is information that is simply nice to know. This communication could be on any subject and not necessarily directly or indirectly related to the job. This is simply telling people about things that may be of general interest to them but that they don’t really need to know. This information could be about organizational changes, personnel announcement, business updates, or anything that may be appropriate but not necessary to share with them.

6. There is another type of information not shown on this communications model. This is information that you can’t share. One of the most difficult communications challenges for a supervisor or manager is when employees ask about information that must remain confidential and that you consequently cannot share.

 

Activity 18. Attention Spans

PDF

18. Attention Spans

Description

The average attention spans of high school students and adults are presented.

Time Guideline

20 minutes

Purpose

To help participants better understand just how limited attention spans can be and the challenge this presents in communications

Resources

Handout 18-A

Presentation

1. Begin the activity by asking participants what they think is meant by “attention span” as it relates to communications. You should expect to hear replies that relate to how long someone can concentrate on one thing before becoming distracted in some way.

2. Distribute or present Handout 18-A.

3. Read what the attention span is of a high school student and ask participants if they agree or disagree with this assessment.

4. Next read what the attention span is of the average adult. Again ask participants if they agree or disagree.

5. To prove this point, read the following brief passage to participants and ask them to raise their hand (and leave it up) when they begin to lose their attention to what you are reading.

 

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