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Communication Skills Exercises 

Whether it’s communicating with coworkers, family members, or strangers, having strong communication skills can help you get ahead at work. From developing active listening techniques to improving public speaking skills, this guide includes tips on how to effectively communicate your thoughts and ideas – all backed by research from experts in the field of interpersonal communication.

Communication Skills Exercises Communication Exercises

Here we will talk about how different exercises can boost your ability to express yourself, better understand others and navigate difficult conversations. You’ll learn all about planning for effective communication, active listening techniques, and helpful strategies for responding in specific situations. By the end of this blog post, you’ll have all the tools and information necessary to improve the way that you communicate with both colleagues and friends alike.

Table of Contents

    Group Communication Exercises 

    Communication activities, exercises, and games can teach individuals to interact better with each other. Possessing great communication skills benefits all facets of life, from professional to personal to everything in between. I have listed out various exercises that will help you to ensure effective communication. 

    1. Card Pieces  

    Card pieces from the team at MindTools are a good way to help participants develop more empathy, consider other perspectives, and build their communication and negotiation skills.

    First, make sure you have enough people for at least three teams of two, enough playing cards to give out between 4 and 6 cards to each person, and 15 minutes to spare.

    Here’s how the activity works:

    1. Cut each playing card into half diagonally, then in half diagonally again, so you have four triangular pieces for each card.
    2. Mix all the pieces and put equal numbers of cards into as many envelopes as you have teams.
    3. Divide people up into teams of three or four. You need at least three teams. If you’re short of people, teams of two will work just as well.
    4. Give each team an envelope of playing card pieces.
    5. Each team has three minutes to sort its pieces, determine which ones it needs to make complete cards, and develop a bargaining strategy.
    6. After three minutes, allow the teams to start bartering for pieces. People can barter on their own or collectively with their team. Give the teams eight minutes to barter.
    7. When the time is up, count each team’s completed cards. Whichever team has the most cards wins the round.

    Afterward, you can use these questions to guide discussion on the exercise:

    • Which negotiation strategies worked? Which didn’t?
    • What could they have done better?
    • What other skills, such as active listening or empathy, did they need to use?

    2. Listen and Draw

    Listen and draw is easy to play but not so easy to “win.” It requires participants’ full attention and active listening.

    Gather your group of participants together and hand out a piece of paper and a pen or pencil to each player. 

    Tell them you will give them verbal instructions on drawing an object, one step at a time.

    For example, you might give them instructions like:

    1. Draw a square, measuring 5 inches on each side.
    2. Draw a circle within the square, such that it fits exactly in the middle of the square.
    3. Intersect 2 lines through the circle, dividing the circle into 4 equal parts.

    As the exercise continues, it will get progressively harder; one misstep could mean that every following instruction is misinterpreted or misapplied. Participants will need to listen carefully to ensure their drawing comes out accurately. 

    Once the instructions have all been read, compare drawings and decide who won.

    For added engagement, decide in advance on what the finished product is supposed to represent (e.g., a spiderweb, a tree).

    3. Communication Origami

    Communication origami is a great exercise to help people understand that we all hear and interpret things differently, even if we are given the same information.

    Here’s how it works:

    1. Give one sheet of standard-sized paper (8.5 x 11 inches) to each participant.
    2. Tell your participants that you will be giving them step-by-step instructions on how to fold their pieces of paper into an origami shape.
    3. Inform your participants that they must keep their eyes and mouths closed as they follow instructions; they are not allowed to look at the paper or ask any clarifying questions.
    4. Give the group your instructions on how to fold the paper into the origami shape of your choice.
    5. Once the instructions have all been given, have everyone open their eyes and compare their shape with the intended shape.

    You will likely find that each shape is a little bit different! To hit the point home, refer to these discussion points and questions:

    • Make the point that each paper looks different even though you have given the same instructions to everybody. What does this mean?
    • Ask the group if you think the results would have been better if they kept their eyes open or were allowed to ask questions.
    • Communicating is not easy, we all interpret the information we get differently that’s why it’s very important to ask questions and confirm understanding to ensure the communicated message is not distorted.

    4. Guess the Emotion

    It is another useful exercise from the Training Course Material website called “Guess the Emotion”. As you might expect, it involves acting out and guessing emotions. This helps all participants practice empathy and better understand their coworker’s or group members’ reactions.

    Follow these instructions to play this engaging game:

    1. Divide the group into two teams.
    2. Place on a table (or put in a box) a packet of cards, each of which has a particular emotion typed on it
    3. Have a participant from Group A take the top card from the table and act out (pantomime) the emotion for his/her group. This is to be done within a fixed time limit (such as a minute or two).
    4. If the emotion is guessed correctly by Group A, they receive ten points.
    5. Now have a participant from Group B act out an emotion; award points as appropriate.
    6. Rotate the acting opportunities between the two groups.
    7. After 20 to 30 minutes of acting and guessing, call time and announce the winning team based on its point total.

    If you have a particularly competitive group, consider giving a prize to the winning team!

    5. The Guessing Game

    Finally, another fun and engaging game that can boost communication skills: is “The Guessing Game.” You will probably recognize this game, as it’s similar to what many people know as “Twenty Questions,” except there is no hard limit on the number of questions you can ask.

    To start, separate the group into two teams of equal (or roughly equal) size. Instruct one player from each team to leave the room for one minute and come up with a common object that can be found in most offices (e.g., a stapler, a printer, a whiteboard).

    When this person returns, their teammates will try to guess what the object is by asking only “Yes or No” questions (i.e., questions that can only be answered with “yes” or “no”). The team can ask as many questions as they need to figure it out, but remind them that they compete with the other team. If there’s time, you can have multiple rounds for added competition between the teams.

    Take the last 10 minutes or so to discuss and debrief. Use the following points and questions to guide it:

    • Tell the group that it took a long time and effort for us to find out the object in each round, but what if we didn’t have time and only had one question to ask to find out the object, what would that question be?
    • The question would be “What is the object?” which is an open-ended question.
    • Open-ended questions are an excellent way to save time and energy and help you get to the information you need fast, however, closed questions can also be very useful in some instances to confirm your understanding or to help you control the conversation with an overly talkative person/customer.

    6. Power of Body Language

    Power of body language activity from Training Materials & Courseware Resource will help your participants work on their body language skills.

    Here’s how it works:

    1. Tell the participants that you are going to give them a series of instructions and you want them to follow them as fast as they can.
    2. State the following actions as you engage in them:
      1. Put your hand to your nose.
      2. Clap your hands.
      3. Stand up.
      4. Touch your shoulder.
      5. Sit down.
      6. Stamp your foot.
      7. Cross your arms.
      8. Put your hand to your mouth (but while saying this one, put your hand to your nose).
    3. Observe how many participants copied what you did instead of what you said.

    Share this observation with your group and lead a discussion on how body language can influence our understanding and our reactions. It can reinforce what we hear or it can interfere with the verbal communication we receive. 

    The more aware we are of this possibility, the better communicators we become. It’s vital to keep your body language in mind, just as it’s vital to notice and understand others’ body language.

    7. Clap and Follow

    The “Clap and Follow” activity is a great way to practice using your body in conjunction with verbal communication.

    It works like this:

    1. Tell your group that this is a game that requires their full concentration.
    2. Share these instructions with them:
      1. When they hear one clap from the leader (you), tell them this means they should stand up.
      2. When they hear two claps from the leader, they should hop once in place.
      3. When they hear three claps, they should rub their belly.
      4. When they hear four claps, they should do a 360-degree turn on the spot.
      5. When they hear five claps, they should pat their head.
    3. Begin the activity! Start with one clap, then two claps, and so on until you have given the group each instruction once.
    4. Now, mix it up! Switch between the five different instructions and begin to pick up the pace. This is when the eliminations begin.
    5. Each time a participant engages in the wrong activity, eliminate them from the game. Continue until there is one clear winner.

    If you have a competitive group, you may want to bring a prize to ensure active engagement with the exercise. It will give participants a chance to practice nonverbal communication in a fun context.

    8. Wordless Acting

    Wordless acting activity from Grace Fleming (2018) at ThoughtCo will show your participants how much we “speak” with our body language and facial expressions.

    Here are the instructions:

    1. Separate your group into pairs.
    2. Assign one participant in each pair to Partner A and the other to Partner B.
    3. Give each participant a copy of the script (copied below).
    4. Instruct Participant A to read his or her lines out loud, but instruct Participant B to communicate his or her lines in a nonverbal way.
    5. Provide Participant B with a secret emotional distraction written on a piece of paper (e.g., Participant B is in a rush, is bored, or is feeling guilty).
    6. Have each pair work through the script.
    7. After each pair has finished working through the script, have the “A” participants guess what emotion their partner was feeling.

    This is the script you will give each participant:

    A: Have you seen my book? I can’t remember where I put it.

    B: Which one?

    A: The murder mystery. The one you borrowed.

    B: Is this it?

    A: No. It’s the one you borrowed.

    B: I did not!

    A: Maybe it’s under the chair. Can you look?

    B: Okay—just give me a minute.

    A: How long are you going to be?

    B: Geez, why so impatient? I hate when you get bossy.

    A: Forget it. I’ll find it myself.

    B: Wait—I found it!

    After the activity, guide a discussion on how much information we can pick up from nonverbal communication and how important it is to regulate our bodies and our facial expressions when communicating, even if we’re also using verbal communication.

    9. We Have to Move Now!

    Another great exercise from Grace Fleming (2018) is called “We Have to Move Now!” and it will help your participants learn how to express and detect several different emotions.

    These are the instructions for this activity:

    1. Cut several strips of paper.
    2. On each strip of paper, write down a mood, feeling, or disposition, like guilty, happy, suspicious, paranoid, insulted, or insecure.
    3. Fold the strips of paper so you can’t see what is written on them and place them in a bowl or jar. These are your prompts.
    4. Have each participant take a prompt from the bowl or jar and read the same sentence to the class, but with the emotion the prompt specifies.
    5. The sentence everybody will read is: “We all need to gather our possessions and move to another building as soon as possible.”
    6. Have the participants guess the emotion of each reader by writing down what they think the speaker is feeling (or what they are supposed to be feeling).

    After each participant has had a chance to read the sentence based on one of the prompts, run through the emotions displayed and see how many each participant guessed correctly. Finally, lead a debriefing discussion on how things like tone and body language can impact the way a message is received.

    10. Stack the Deck

    All you’ll need for this exercise is a deck of playing cards, a blindfold for each participant, and some space to move around.

    Here’s how “Stack the Deck” works:

    1. Shuffle the deck of cards and hand one out to each participant.
    2. Instruct the participants to keep their cards a secret; no one should see the suit or color of another participant’s card.
    3. Tell the participants that they will not be allowed to talk at all during this exercise.
    4. Instruct your participants to assemble into four groups according to their suit (hearts, clubs, diamonds, spades), but using only nonverbal communication.
    5. If you have the time and your participants incline, try blindfolding each participant and giving the same instructions—it makes it much more difficult and more time-consuming!
    6. Once participants have all gathered into one of the four groups, have them line up according to their rank (Ace is the lowest, King is the highest); again, they cannot speak or show their cards to anyone during this part of the exercise.
    7. The group that lines up in the right order first wins!

    As always, you can offer a prize to the winning team to motivate your participants.

    This exercise will show how difficult it is to communicate without words, but it will also show your participants that it is not only possible, it gets easier as they start to pick up on one another’s nonverbal cues.

    11. Silent Movie

    Silent movie activity to drive home the importance of effective nonverbal communication.

    Divide your participants into two groups. For the first half of the activity, one group will be screenwriters and the other group will be actors. In the second half, the two groups will switch roles.

    Instruct the screenwriters to write a silent movie, but keep these things in mind:

    1. Silent movies tell a story without words. It’s important to start the scene with the actor doing an obvious task, like cleaning the house or rowing a boat.
    2. The scene must be interrupted when a second actor (or several actors) enters the scene, and their arrival should have a big impact. The character(s) could be anyone (or anything), including burglars, salesmen, children, or even animals.
    3. A physical commotion must occur.
    4. The problem that is caused by the commotion must be resolved by the end of the scene.

    Give the screenwriters time to write out their script, then have the actors perform the script. Once the scene is finished, have the groups switch roles.

    2 Communication Group Activities

    Other great activities for group communication include the “Square Talk” and “Follow All Instructions” activities.

    12. Square Talk Activity

    For the square talk activity, you will need one blindfold for each participant, one long piece of rope for each team (teams should be composed of around 5 participants each), and 25 minutes.

    Follow these steps to give this activity a try:

    1. Divide your group of participants into groups of about 5 each.
    2. Clear the room so you have as much space as possible.
    3. Blindfold each participant and tell them their objective: to make a square from a rope (i.e., stand in the shape of a square with their team).
    4. Disorientate each participant by moving them a bit, spinning them around, etc.
    5. Give each participant one piece of information—and only one—from this list:
      1. All team members are blindfolded and must remain so for the duration of the activity.
      2. The rope you are holding is approximate ___ feet in length.
      3. The role you are holding is knotted together to form a circle; it must not be undone.
      4. You must not let go of the rope.
      5. You will be told when you have 5 minutes remaining.
    6. Allow the teams to work on the activity and inform them when they have 5 minutes left.

    Once the teams have given this activity their best shot, use these 5 discussion questions to review the importance of good group communication:

    • Do you feel as a group you communicated effectively?
    • During the Activity, what communication skills did you use effectively?
    • During the activity, what communication skills could you have used to improve performance?
    • How important is communication in the workplace? Why?
    • What key points have you learned about communication from this activity that you wish to apply in the workplace?

    13. Follow All Instructions Activity

    The follow all instructions activity from TrainingCourseMaterial.com is a great one for young people, but it can be used with participants of all ages. All you’ll need is a set of instructions for each participant.

    Here are the instructions:

    1. Write all of your team’s initials at the top right-hand corner of this sheet.
    2. Write your first name on your sheet of paper.
    3. Write the total of 3 + 16 + 32 + 64 here: __________________
    4. Underline instruction 1 above.
    5. Check the time by your watch with that of one of your neighbors.
    6. Write down the difference in time between the two watches at the foot of this page.
    7. Draw three circles in the left-hand margin.
    8. Put a tick in each of the circles mentioned in 6.
    9. Sign your signature at the foot of the page.
    10. On the back of the page, divide 50 by 12.5.
    11. When you get to this point in the test, stand up, then sit down and continue with the next item.
    12. If you have carefully followed all these instructions, call out ‘I have’.
    13. On the reverse of this page, draw quickly what you think an upright bicycle looks like from overhead.
    14. Check your answer to Item 9, multiply it by 5, and write the result in the left-hand margin opposite this item.
    15. Write the 5th, 10th, 9th, and 20th letters of the alphabet here: ___________________
    16. Punch three holes with your pen here: o o o
    17. If you think you are the first person to get this far, call out ‘I’m in the lead’.
    18. Underline all the even digits on the left-hand side of the page.
    19. Draw triangles around the holes you punched in Item 15.
    20. Now you’ve finished reading all the instructions, obey only 1, 2, 20 & 21.
    21. Stand up and say, “We’re the greatest team in the World!”

    As you can see, the instructions include lots of silly directives (e.g., “When you get to this point in the test, stand up, then sit down and continue with the next item.”) that will identify who is following the directions and who is not—but the person that stands is the one not following directions!

    The first and only verbal instruction you will give participants is to read all the written instructions first before engaging in any of the directives. The first person to complete the list will be declared the winner of the activity. You can offer a prize to the winner if you think the group would be motivated by it.

    This exercise is a fun way to see who is paying attention and who is skipping the most vital instruction—to read everything before acting.

    7 Communication Games for Couples

    I have compiled 7 communication games especially for couples. These communication games will help you bond with your partner and bridge the gap. A lot of times, we let things go unsaid which creates a rift so it is crucial to express. These communication exercises will help you communicate better with your loved one. 

    14. Copycat

    This game is goal-directed, meaning the couple is working towards a common goal, and that goal requires effective communication.

    Here’s how it works:

    • The couple sits back to back with an identical set of building blocks in front of each of them.
    • One partner uses their blocks to create some sort of building or structure.
    • The builder partner then relays a series of instructions to the other partner to help him or her build the same structure.
    • The listener partner must try to build the same structure based on the speaker partner’s instructions.

    This game takes some serious teamwork and good communication, and it can be repeated as needed to help a couple build their skills.

    15. Minefield

    “Minefield” is a physical game that will not only get both partners up and moving, but it will also require a great deal of trust and communication to complete the challenge.

    You will need a blindfold for one partner, some space to navigate, and some objects with which you can create a minefield or obstacle course. Once the course is ready to go, blindfold one partner and bring them into the room.

    The challenge here is for the non-blindfolded partner to guide the blindfolded partner through the obstacle course using only verbal communication. The couple will only succeed if the blindfolded partner has trust in their partner and the non-blindfolded partner is an effective verbal communicator.

    Feelings of frustration are common in this game, but it can be a great way to highlight issues in communication or, alternately, highlight the couple’s communication strengths.

    16. Give Me a Hand

    This game is another one that can be frustrating for the couple but ultimately provides a great opportunity to build effective communication skills and unite the two toward a common goal.

    In this game, the couple will be given a seemingly easy task to complete, such as buttoning a shirt or tying a shoe, but with a catch—each partner will have one arm tied behind their back. The couple will find that the lack of one arm makes the task much more difficult than they might expect!

    To complete the task, the couple will need to communicate effectively and coordinate their movements. It will be tough, but immensely satisfying to complete this challenge!

    17. Twenty Questions Times Two

    If you remember the game “Twenty Questions”, you’ll recognize this game. It can be used to help couples communicate, share important details, and strengthen their connection.

    Here’s how:

    1. The couple should schedule some time alone, without distractions.
    2. Before playing the game, each partner should come up with a list of 20 detailed personal questions to ask the other partner. The couple should feel free to get creative here!
    3. Both partners take turns asking each other one question at a time.
    4. When they’ve finished asking each other their questions, they should reverse them! Instead of asking questions like, “What is your favorite color?” each partner will ask, “What is my favorite color?”

    This fun twist on a familiar game will result in greater knowledge and understanding of your spouse and, hopefully, better communication skills.

    18. Eye-to-Eye

    This game is a good way for couples to work on communicating and improving their connection, and all you need is your eyes!

    Here’s how to do it:

    1. The couple sits facing each other, close enough to hold hands.
    2. Each partner looks directly into the other partner’s eyes.
    3. Each partner should take a minute to notice the feelings they are experiencing at this point.
    4. One partner begins talking about something simple and easy to discuss, like what happened that day, what they had for lunch, or something they are grateful for.
    5. The other partner reciprocates with a similar conversation, all while holding eye contact.
    6. The couple continues sharing things one at a time until each partner has shared at least three or four times.
    7. The couple discusses what the experience was like.

    Many people find this game uncomfortable at first, but with practice, it can greatly enhance your sense of intimacy with your partner.

    19. The Top Three

    Similar to the “three good things” exercise, this game aims to boost a couple’s gratitude for one another and give them both a chance to practice expressing it. Couples should schedule a time for this game every day, but the good news is that it doesn’t take long—just a few minutes will do.

    To play “The Top Three”, couples should follow these instructions:

    1. At the end of each day, take some time to reflect on your day. Think about what your partner has done for you today.
    2. Take turns sharing those three things with your partner and tell them what each thing meant to you.
    3. Don’t forget to say “thank you” or otherwise verbally express your gratitude to your partner!

    This game gets couples to practice vocalizing their appreciation and expressing gratitude, two things that are not necessarily in everyone’s daily communications but can have a big impact on a relationship.

    20. Make a Playdate

    Playdates are not just for kids or puppies—they are a great idea for couples as well! A play date is not your average, regularly scheduled programming sort of date, but something that is different, spontaneous, unique, and/or just plain fun!

    Here are the three ground rules for the playdate:

    1. It has to be something for just the couple to do and they cannot include the kids or discuss mundane things like chores or bills.
    2. It has to be something that requires both partners to be present at the moment; think sailing, rock climbing, or dance lessons rather than seeing a movie or going out to dinner.
    3. The couple should take turns picking the activity and try to surprise their partner with something new.

    Planning this date will not only make it easier to feel connected and closer to one another, but it also provides couples with an opportunity to communicate their love for one another through their actions. Depending on the date activity, it can also provide some much-needed time for the couple to talk.

    21. Back-to-Back Drawing

    Back-to-Back Drawing is about listening, clarity, and developing potential strategies when we communicate. Communicating expectations, needs, and more helps to clarify and create common ground. This can show what happens when we don’t…

    For this activity, you’ll need an even number of participants so everybody can have a partner. Once people have paired off, they sit back-to-back with a paper and pencil each. One member takes on the role of a speaker, and the other plays the part of the listener.

    Over five to ten minutes, the speaker describes a geometric image from a prepared set, and the listener tries to turn this description into a drawing without looking at the image.

    Then, they talk about the experience, using several of the following example questions:

    Speaker Questions

    • What steps did you take to ensure your instructions were clear? How could these be applied in real-life interactions?
    • Our intended messages aren’t always interpreted as we mean them to be. While speaking, what could you do to decrease the chance of miscommunication in real-life dialogue?

    Listener Questions

    • What was constructive about your partner’s instructions?
    • In what ways might your drawing have turned out differently if you could have communicated with your partner?

    22. Effective Feedback in “I” Mode

    Defensiveness is a root cause of miscommunication and even conflict in the workplace. We’re not always ready to receive and learn from criticism, especially when it’s delivered insensitively. This exercise introduces “I” statements, which describe others’ behavior objectively while allowing the speaker to express the impact on their feelings.

    Together or solo, they can create “I” statements about how the imaginary scenario makes them feel. When done in pairs, they can practice giving each other feedback on the ‘meaning of what you say’ without triggering defensiveness in the other.

    23. Storytelling with CCSG

    Storytelling is an engaging way to convey information; when it’s positive information, narratives are also highly effective means of motivating and inspiring others (Tomasulo & Pawelski, 2012). 

    Appreciative Inquiry, for example, is one type of positive psychology intervention that compellingly uses storytelling, as a means to share hopes and build on our shared strengths.

    Through this exercise, we can practice structuring our narratives—essentially we’ll have one ‘information delivery’ tool to draw on when we feel it might help (like the doctors we looked at earlier). 

    CCSG is a structure, and it involves:

    • C: Characters
    • C: Conflict
    • S: Struggle
    • G: Goal

    To use the structure as an exercise, participants simply relate a narrative using CCSG. For example, one team member might describe a past success of the group or team, where their collective strengths helped them succeed. The Characters would then be whoever was involved, the Conflict may be a challenge the team faced (a new growth opportunity, perhaps).

    The Struggle might be something like geographical distance between team members, and the Goal would be just that: their objective or success.

     

    3 Activities to Improve Communication Between Employees

    Workplace miscommunication happens a lot. There is often a gap between the employer and the employee or the manager and his underlings. Team building activities can help to foster better workplace relationships. Take a look at these 3 exercises to improve communication in your organization. 

    24. Direction Direction

    This activity is a slight twist on Chinese Whispers in that it uses a complex set of instructions rather than just a sentence. And here, we have only one link rather than an entire chain of people. Otherwise, the idea is identical—information gets misinterpreted thanks to the noise, but we can improve our verbal communication and listening skills to minimize this risk.

    First, pick a game with enough instructions that the information is a challenge to memorize. With 2+ co-workers, pick one person (a speaker) to whom you’ll explain the instructions. They are responsible for passing the information on to the rest of their team. The group then needs to play the game with only instructions from the speaker.

    Once they’ve finished the game, start some dialogue about what happened:

    • Was there any lack of clarity around the instructions?
    • What might have contributed to this confusion?
    • What are some key things to be aware of when we give or listen to instructions?

    25. Mimes

    Here’s an exercise on the pivotal role of clarification. When it comes to tasks and expectations, it goes without saying that clarity helps us avoid lots of unwanted things. 

    Succinctly, ambiguity contributes to stress, and clarity is empowering—something that is easy to overlook and which this game reminds us of.

    Any number of co-workers can participate in this very simple mime game. You’ll need a list of topics for people to act out, then invite players to break off into groups of two. In these pairs, they will take turns being a mime and being an asker. 

    The mime reads the card, then attempts to act out what’s on it (you’ll first need to decide on a theme, like weather, activities, or what have you).

    While the asker can pose questions, the mime can only act out their answers.

    It might unearth an awareness of implicit assumptions, bringing our conscious attention to the role these play in our judgments. 

    Potential discussion questions will help you unpack this further:

    • How did your questioning skills help you comprehend what was going on?
    • What value do questioning skills have when we’re trying to understand others?
    • What factors sometimes prevent us from asking questions when they might be useful?

    26. Let’s Face It

    This exercise from The Big Book of Conflict-Resolution Games is about self-awareness. How large of a role does it play, and how does it influence our communication?

    There is no limit to the group size for this game, which requires only enough pens and paper for everybody. It doesn’t take very long, either, and can be played in as little as ten to twenty minutes—perfect for breaking up the day.

    Start with groups (or sub-groups) of between four and ten players; in each of these, someone will need to volunteer as a facilitator. This facilitator simply keeps the game on track and gets the discussion going afterward.

    Each player writes down a feeling on a small piece of paper, folds it, then passes it to the volunteer facilitator. From him or her, they take another piece that someone else has written and try to express that feeling to the rest of the group—using only their facial expressions. The other participants try to guess that emotion and this should lead to a talk about the role of expressions. 

    Useful discussion points include:

    • What feelings do we understand the easiest, when only facial expressions are used? Why might that be?
    • Describe some contexts where facial expressions play a particularly important role in communication.
    • In what ways can facial expressions influence our ability to deal with misunderstandings?

    3 Active Listening Games and Exercises for the Workplace

    Communication also entails active listening and your employees need to be good listeners to ensure there is no mishaps due to miscommunication. If you are looking for ways to inculcate active listening amongst your employees in the workplace, these 3 activities listed below will be right up your alley. 

    27. Concentric Circles

    This large group exercise works best when you already have a topic for discussion. It is used a lot during inclusive strategy sessions, where diverse opinions are valuable but team size can hamper rather than facilitate good communication. For this exercise, everybody has a handout that summarizes the goals of the discussion.

    Two circles of chairs are set up, one inside the other. Participants who sit in the middle are ‘talkers’ while those in the outer ring are ‘watchers’, and these roles should be allocated before the exercise. Armed with their handouts, talkers begin to engage with the topic. 

    They use the goals as a guide for the conversation, while the watchers listen carefully and make notes.

    After fifteen minutes of discussion, the watchers and talkers switch circles—those who were listening before now sit in the inner circle for a fifteen-minute conversation. 

    It can be on the pre-chosen topic or a different one, but the activity must conclude with a debrief.

    During this debrief, they reflect collectively on the experience itself:

    • How was being a watcher, compared to being a listener?
    • What did you feel when you were observing from the outer circle, listening but not contributing? How did this influence your learnings, rather than providing your input?
    • In what ways did being a watcher impact your perspectives of the talkers? What about their dynamics?

    This game-storming communications exercise is based on a team coaching technique by Time To Grow Global.

    28. 3-minute Vacation

    Here is another talker and listener exercise that can be done in pairs. In a larger group of participants, this can be done multiple times as players pair up with different conversation partners. And in each pair, of course, team members will take turns being listeners and talkers.

    The talker discusses their dream vacation for three minutes, describing what they would like best about it but without specifying where it should be. While they talk, the listener pays close attention to the explicit and underlying details, using only non-verbal cues to show that they are listening.

    After the 3-minute vacation, the listener summarizes the key points of their conversation partner’s dream vacation—as a holiday sales pitch. After they’ve ‘pitched’ the ideal vacation spot in the space of a few minutes, the pair discuss how accurately the listener understood the talker.

    They outline how they could improve their dialogue concerning active listening, then swap roles. A twist on this team coaching exercise might involve allowing the listener to make notes during the talker’s description, revealing them as a point of discussion only after they deliver the ‘sales pitch’.

    29. Pet Peeve

    How about a chance to blow off some steam and get that empathetic listening ear at the same time? And at the same time, helping your co-worker practice active listening?

    In this game, one colleague has a full 60 seconds to rant about something which irks them. It’s best if this isn’t inappropriate for the workplace, but at the same time, it doesn’t have to be work-related. If you hate pop-up ads, for instance, you’ve already got great material for your rant.

    The first colleague (Player A) simply lets loose while the second person (Player B) listens carefully, trying to cut through the noise by singling out:

    • What Player A cares about – for instance, smooth user experience on the internet;
    • What they value – e.g. clarity and transparent advertisements;
    • What matters to them – e.g. getting work done, doing their online shopping in peace, or a more intuitive, user-friendly adblocker.

    Player B then ‘decodes’ the rant by repeating it back to Player A, isolating the key positive points without the fluff or negativity. 

    They can use some variants on the following sentence stems to guide their decoding:

    • “You value…”
    • “You care about…”
    • “You believe that…matters a lot”

    Then, they can switch over and repeat the game. As you can probably see, the activity is aimed at helping teammates appreciate that feedback has positive goals.

    3 Team Building Communication Games and Exercises

    Looking to improve collaboration with a team building activity that aren’t ridiculous? I’ve got you covered. Your team will love to try out these 3 team building communication exercises. 

    30. Personal Storytelling

    In large organizations especially, we may only bring a part of ourselves to the workplace. If we want to communicate empathetically and build relationships with co-workers—important social resources—personal storytelling is one way we can build our teams while developing communication skills.

    There is no set time or place for storytelling, but it works best when a story is followed by an invitation to the group to give input. Feel free to use the CCSG technique described earlier in this article, and the speaker uses a reflective tone, rather than purely informative, when addressing the group.

    To try out personal storytelling, set aside a team-building afternoon, meeting, or workshop. Ask the group to each prepare a reading that they will share. 

    Here are some ideas that nicely blend the emotional with the professional:

    • Tell the group what your dreams are as a team member, for the company, or the community (e.g. Whitney & Cooperrider, 2011);
    • Tell them about your first job, or your very first working experience;
    • If you’ve got a budget, give team members a small amount of money each to do something good. Then, let them share the story of what they did with it;
    • When onboarding new people, invite the group to bring in an object which symbolizes their wishes for the new team member. Then, let them share the story behind the object.

    31. I’m Listening

    We learn from our peers’ feedback, and learning is most productive in a supportive work environment (Odom et al., 1990; Goh, 1998). Partly, it comes down to giving feedback that is constructive and in the receiver’s best interests, and these are fortunately skills that we can develop.

    I’m Listening can be played with an even number of participants, as they will need to find a partner for this one-on-one game. In the book mentioned below, there are also hand-outs, but you can prepare your own for this activity. 

    Ideally, more than one ‘Talker Scenario’ and more than one ‘Listener Scenario’:

    • A ‘Talker Scenario’ will describe something like a bad day at work, or a problem with a client. In a small paragraph, it should outline what’s gone wrong (maybe it’s everything from a cracked smartphone screen to a delay during your commute). This scenario is followed by an instruction for the Talker to play a role: “You call up your colleague for some support” or “You decide to let off some steam by talking to your co-worker”.
    • A ‘Listener Scenario’ is a bit different. In several sentences, the scenario outlines a situation where they are approached by a colleague with problems but might have other things on their plate. They might be up to their ears at work, or their colleague’s complaints might seem trivial. After reading the scenario of their context (e.g. it’s a hectic day, your computer’s just crashed), the Listener’s role is to act it out while they respond, for example: “Show with your body language that you’re far too busy”.

    The exercise is a good starting point for a conversation about constructive listening strategies. Together, the pairs can come up with more productive, empathetic, and appropriate responses, with the acting experience fresh in mind. 

    Some discussion points include:

    • As a Talker, what feedback did your Listener appear to give?
    • How did you feel about the feedback you received?
    • How might you create some listening and feedback approaches based on this?

    This game comes from The Big Book of Conflict-Resolution Games (Amazon).

    32. “A What?”

    Inspired by the kid’s game Telephone, this exercise draws on different elements of effective communication between team members, while highlighting where things often go wrong. It works with any sized team and requires only a facilitator and some novel objects that can be passed between participants. 

    So, plush toys, tennis balls, or similar—but the more imaginative they are, the better.

    Players stand in a circle and pass two of the objects along to each other. One object should be passed clockwise, and the other counter-clockwise. Before passing on the toy, ball, or what have you, players ask something about the object and answer a question about it.

    Essentially, the message will change as the object gets passed along, and players will need to stay sharp to remember who they are passing and talking to.

    For instance:

    • The facilitator starts by handing one of the items to the person on their right, saying “Ellen, this is a tattered elephant with pink ears.”
    • Ellen then needs to ask “A What?”, prompting you to repeat the item’s name.
    • Taking the item, Ellen turns to her right and repeats the same with Pedro: “Pedro, this is a tattered elephant with pink ears.” Pedro asks, “A What?”
    • Before she passes the item to Pedro, however, Ellen’s answer to his question must come back to the facilitator, who says it aloud. This way, it’s possible to see if and how the message changes as it goes around the group. By the time it reaches Hassan, who is Person 5, for instance, it might be “A grey elephant with tattered ears.”
    • Once people get the gist of how to play with one item, the facilitator adds in the second by passing it to the left.

    Debrief with a chat about the communication that went on. Did anybody end up with both items at once? How did they cope? Did others help them?

    Other questions include:

    • How did communication look with a longer or shorter chain? Where was the weakest link, and why?
    • In what ways did players support each other?
    • How did you feel during the game? What was the impact of that emotion on you and others?

    3 Communication Exercises and Activities for Groups

    We are not done yet. I have more fun team-building activities that you can try with your own team to improve communication. Check these out. 

    33. Crazy Comic

    This is a fun game in communication skills that will also give team members some creative freedom. They will need to communicate those creative ideas to one another, but also engage in joint decision-making for the activity to be a success. And that activity is to create a comic together, using their complementary skills and communication to realize a shared vision.

    You’ll need more than 9 participants for this activity, as well as paper, drawing, and coloring materials for each colleague. From your larger group of co-workers, let them form smaller groups of about 3-6 participants and tell them their task is to produce a unique comic strip, with one frame from each person. So, a 6-person group will make a 6-frame strip, and so forth.

    Between them, they need to decide the plot of the comic, who will be carrying out which tasks, and what the frames will contain. The catch is that they all need to draw at the same time, so they will not be seeing the preceding frame in the strip. Make it extra hard if you like, by instructing them not to look at one another’s creative progress as they draw, either.

    Afterward, trigger some discussion about the way they communicated; some example questions include:

    • How critical was communication throughout this exercise?
    • What did you find the toughest about this activity?
    • Why was it important to make the decisions together?

    34. Blindfold Rope Square

    This is similar in some ways to the Back-to-Back Drawing exercise above. That is, the Blindfold Rope Square exercise challenges us to look at how we communicate verbally, then think about ways to develop our effectiveness. 

    In a large group of participants or employees, particularly, we often need to cut through the noise with a clear and coherent message—and this game can be played with even a large group of people.

    You will need about ten meters of rope and a safe place for employees to walk around blindfolded in. 

    So, flat and ideally with no walls or tripping hazards.

    1. Explain first that the goal of the task is effective verbal communication, and give each participant a blindfold.
    2. Once they have gathered in your chosen ‘safe space’, invite them to put on their blindfolds and turn around a few times so they are (reasonably) disoriented in the space.
    3. Coil the rope and put it where at least one participant can reach it, then explain that you’ve put the rope ‘somewhere on the floor’.
    4. Tell them their shared aim is to collaborate: first to find the rope, than to lay it out into a perfect square together on the floor.
    5. Let the participants go about it, taking care not to let any accidents occur. Tell them to let you know once they’ve agreed that the job is done.
    6. Finally, everybody removes their blindfolds, and it’s time for feedback. This is the perfect opportunity to congratulate them or start a discussion about what they might do differently the next time around.

    35. Zen Counting

    Silence is not always a bad thing. Sometimes it gives us a chance to reflect, in others it creates a space for others to take the floor. Nonetheless, we’re often inclined to view it as awkward—a gap to be filled or avoided—rather than a chance to listen. According to Shannon and Weaver’s Theory of Communication (1998), this simply creates more ‘noise’ and negatively impacts our ability to reach resolutions at work (Smith, 2018).

    Zen counting is incredibly straightforward: team members simply sit in a circle but face outward. With nobody, in particular, starting first, they are asked to count from one to ten as a group, but each member can only say one number. Nothing else is said. When someone repeats or interrupts another group member, they start again from one.

    The idea is to facilitate a sense of ‘okayness’ with being uncomfortable and silent, while team members practice letting others speak.

    36. Blind Drawing

    Divide groups into pairs, assigning one person in the pair the role of speaker and the other the role of listener. Without letting the listener see, give the speaker a picture of geometric shapes. The listener will need a pencil and a sheet of paper.

    Next, the speaker needs to describe the picture to the listener, who is not allowed to speak. Once the listener has finished drawing, compare the attempt to the original picture.

    This activity shows what happens when communication breaks down. In particular, it shows the importance of two-way communication. It demonstrates that, in addition to transmitting and interpreting a message, communication is about creating strategies to understand one another.

    Use the exercise as a starting point to discuss how employees can use better communication skills at work. Consider how someone may misinterpret unclear instructions — including how the activity would have had different results if the listener was able to ask questions.

    37. Forming Groups

    If you have a large team, this activity is a great choice for practicing effective communication exercises. It’s particularly useful for team members who don’t know each other well.

    The game works by asking employees to form groups with others who have something in common. For instance, you could tell participants to form a group with everyone born in the same month as them, with those that have the same hobbies, or with those who have the same number of siblings. 

    The options are endless, and you can get as creative as you like. The point is for employees to use communication to form new groups as quickly as possible.

    At the end of the activity, talk about what types of communication employees used. 

    38. Blindfolded Obstacle Course

    An important aspect of communication is trust. There’s no better way for employees to learn to trust their coworkers than when they’re blindfolded!

    Create an obstacle course in a reasonably large room using everyday items from the office. Blindfold one employee and have a second employee lead the first through the obstacle course. 

    Those who are the most successful at leading will be the ones who used clear and concise language. At the end of the activity, use this as a teaching point as to why it’s important to use as few words as possible when explaining to avoid confusion.

    39. Just Listen

    Come up with a few topics to discuss, avoiding anything too controversial but perhaps choosing a topic that has caused an issue in the past. Split the group into pairs, assigning one person in the pair as a speaker and the other as a listener.

    Give the speakers about three minutes to talk about their topic to their partners. The listeners must not interrupt. Once the speakers have finished talking, listeners should summarize what their partners said — being completely objective. 

    Give them around a minute to make the summary, then reverse roles.

    After you’ve concluded the activity, bring the group back together. Talk about how it felt to speak uninterrupted. Were speakers able to better express their views? Did the summaries show that the listeners were paying attention? How easy was it to listen without being allowed to speak? 

    Finally, ask employees how they will use the activity to improve their speaking and listening skills at work.

    40. Don’t Listen

    You can also try an activity that’s almost the opposite of the above. Again, divide the group into pairs of listeners and speakers. This time (without letting the speakers know) tell the listeners to stop paying attention after 30 seconds.

    For this exercise, allow speakers to choose their topic — something they are passionate about. 

    Again, ask them to talk for about three minutes. However, you should stop the activity when all the speakers become aware that the listeners are not paying attention.

    Discuss as a group what indicated that the listeners were not paying attention and how not being listened to makes us feel. Use this to stress the importance of active listening.

    41. Four at a Time

    Another way to examine the importance of nonverbal communication is with this team activity. You’ll need at least nine people, but it’s best of all if you have a large group.

    Arrange seats in a circle. Have four people stand up and keep everyone else sitting. 

    At the end of 10 seconds, the four employees who are standing must sit down and another four must stand up. The trick is that no one is allowed to speak!

    Keep playing with a new four people standing up every 10 seconds. 

    The game ends if, at any time, you have any more or less than four people standing.

    After the activity, talk about what methods of communication you used. Think of how these could strengthen relationships between coworkers.

    42. Acting Emotions

    Another way to learn about nonverbal communication is with this activity. Create a set of cards with a different emotion written on each. Hand a card to one employee, who needs to act out the emotion. The other employees need to guess the emotion.

    Once everyone has acted at least one emotion, hold a discussion. Talk about which emotions were the easiest to portray and guess. Why might this be? Next, move on to discussing in what situations facial expressions become particularly important at work. 

    It could be a coworker, client, or someone else expressing the emotion. Finally, consider how it becomes more difficult to know how someone is feeling when you’re unable to see the person’s face or body language. Brainstorm ideas for overcoming this challenge.

    43. Body Language Speaks Louder Than Words

    Frame this activity as an exercise for following instructions as fast as possible. Ask employees to do a series of actions, like touching their nose, standing up, raising one knee, sitting back down, crossing their arms, etc. Do around eight to 10 actions, demonstrating the actions as you give the instructions.

    For the last instruction, while telling employees what to do, perform a completely different action. Make a mental note of how many people followed what you asked and how many copied what you did. You’ll likely find that the majority copied you rather than listened to the instruction.

    Ask your employees how many noticed the last mistake. Discuss how this shows that body language can be even more influential than the words you say. 

    44. Listen and Recap 

    Oftentimes, people are uncomfortable sharing their opinions or feelings because they fear they’ll be judged, mocked, or even penalized. In this exercise, you’ll divide your employees into pairs and they’ll take turns communicating how they feel about a specific subject. 

    When one partner is finished, the other partner will recap what they’ve said, rather than respond to it. Then, the other partner will have his or her turn to speak. This exercise encourages good listening and allows people to share what’s on their minds.

    45. The Name Game 

    With your employees in teams of two, have one of them think of a famous person and write it (secretly) on a sticky note, which they will then attach to their partner’s forehead. The partner will then ask questions until they guess the name of the person. 

    This can be a timed process. At the end of 5 minutes or so, recap and debrief how the communication worked or did not work and how they can improve communication. 

    This exercise helps people understand how to ask the right questions and how to do it properly.

    46. Telephone

    You likely remember playing this game as a child. However, it works in a business setting as well. Have your team sit in a circle and whisper a sentence into the ear of the person next to you. Have them do the same to the person next to them until the sentence has traveled around the circle. 

    Say the sentence out loud and enjoy the laugh over how the words were misheard and misinterpreted.

    This exercise shows employees the importance of understanding instructions or a concept before taking action or communicating it to someone else.

    47. Two People Talking

    Divide groups into teams of three. One person will stand in the center and listen while the other two talk simultaneously about a pre-decided topic (like their favorite vacation). The listener will do their best to absorb information from both of the talkers and then report back when the exercise is finished.

    This exercise shows the importance of not talking over people (because your message won’t be heard) and helps people practice their listening skills.

    48. I Feel

    This exercise can be done as a planned game or can be incorporated into heated conversations. 

    When discussing a topic, begin sentences with “I feel…” rather than “You…” This takes the fear of being attacked off the listener and allows the speaker to communicate their feelings freely.

    49. Show and Tell

    Possibly one of your favorite activities as a child! Ask children to bring a beloved item into the classroom or to the dinner table and describe what it is and why they love it.

    This activity gives children an opportunity to speak about something they care for. Their audience has the opportunity to practice listening and asking pertinent questions, and the speaker gets to work on fielding those questions.

    50. Taking Turns

    Learning to give other people the opportunity to speak is essential to good communication skills. In this exercise, children sit in a circle with one child in the center. 

    They will have 15 seconds to talk about a subject of their liking (animals, for example). When their time is up, they can choose the next animal and pick another child to take their turn.

    This game helps kids understand the importance of speaking and then turning the floor over to someone else. Audience members get to practice listening as it will be important for them to know what the next topic is.

    51. Team Presentations

    If you work with students, assign them a team project that will be presented to the class. Students work together to complete the project and then present their findings to the other teams. 

    This allows them to practice communication skills, teamwork, and public speaking (which is challenging for many).

    Conclusion

    In conclusion, effective communication skills are essential to success in both personal and professional relationships. Regularly engaging in communication skills exercises can give you the edge you need to make those interpersonal interactions go more smoothly. With the right approach and dedication to communication skill development, you can become a better communicator and strengthen any relationship. 

    From brainstorming ideas to problem-solving practices, different activities can assist in building strong relationships between colleagues and create an atmosphere of collaboration. Not only that, but these exercises help employees develop their communication abilities so that they can effectively communicate in the workplace regardless of the situation. As a result, organizations will benefit from quality conversations, improved decision-making, and better understanding from all sides of the table overall. 

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1. Benefits of communication skills exercise

    Good communication skills are invaluable in today’s world, and the best way to stay sharp is to keep practicing! Communication skill exercises come with a long list of benefits. Not only do they help refine existing abilities and nurture new ones, but they also promote increased confidence in their general application.

    As such, these exercises provide essential tools for successful dialogue and self-expression in virtually any context. Whether negotiating an agreement, articulating an idea, or simply conveying information, communication skill exercises can help make the process easier and more effective than ever before.

    2. How to practice communication skills exercise

    To start, it is beneficial to set goals for yourself that you can work toward. With communication, small positive changes make a big difference in the long run. It is helpful to also observe others as well; watch how someone else speaks and apply it to yourself. 

    When communicating with a partner or group, it is important to understand the different needs of each individual and strive for empathy toward these needs. 

    Reflecting on conversations afterward can also be an effective tool in understanding how you communicated throughout the situation. 

    Finally, take risks. Don’t be afraid of expressing your thoughts and feelings out loud – this will only encourage growth regarding communication abilities.