8 of Our Favorite Communication Skills Activities
There are various types of communication skills activities that can help people become better communicators.
Some of them are formal, structured activities, such as trainings or communication skills games. Others are just casual techniques to try utilizing in your everyday interactions with others.
Here are just 8 of our favorite communication skills activities that we recommend.
1. Cooperatively Review Past Effective and Ineffective Communications
One of the most easily accessible communication skills activities is simply to learn from the past with each other.
Get in a group and go around in a circle, having each person describe a time that, in a challenging situation, they communicated effectively and achieved a desirable outcome. Also have people talk about experiences where communication went poorly.
After each, at intervals, or at the end, go around again, this time discussing the patterns people noticed in cases where communication worked well vs. did not work well and what lessons can be gleaned for use in the future.
2. Clarify Desired Outcomes
In nearly all cases, people want something out of a communication. But, if we don’t ensure that the message about what we want or what is wanted from us is accurately conveyed, confusion and disappointment can result. And we can’t ensure this without being skilled in clarifying in our own minds what our desires are, which also helps give us some practice in the skill of considering what the desires of others might be.
For the next few days, practice clarifying to yourself, before each instance of communication that allows some time for thinking before engaging, exactly what it is you’re hoping to achieve.
- Are you trying to get something specific, like money someone owes you or an item that you need to borrow?
- Are you simply seeking some empathy for how you’re feeling?
- Are you just wanting to share something for the sheer fun of it, hoping to receive back a laugh?
Getting clear on your desired outcome can help you decide how best to frame and express your communication. It can help you decide, for example, whether this is a case where you should explicitly ask for what you’re seeking or to let it go unsaid. Different cases call for different approaches. But you will be better at choosing the optimal appproach when you are skilled at clarifying in your own mind what you are after.
Furthermore, as your skill in this area improves, you will find yourself better able to discern what others may really be seeking even when they don’t explicitly ask. This can allow you to reflect back to them in ways that can lead to a more desirable outcome for everyone involved.
3. Communicate in the Language of Multiple Modalities
Most of us are either visual, auditory or kinesthetic thinkers. And we tend to demonstrate our preference in how we speak, as described here.
Another of the most helpful communication skills activities is to practice, so as to become more comfortable, using the languages of all of the modalities.
Create a message that you hope to get across. Then try explaining the same message using visual, auditory and kinesthetic language. This will make you:
- More conscious of the existence of these differences
- More skilled at recognizing your style and that of others
- Better at adapting to effectively connect with a person by using their preferred style or to reach a group of people by using a combination of them
4. Use “I” Statements
Communciation can often devolve when we start accusing others or attributing our feelings to their actions. This is true even when our accusations or attributions are technically true.
For instance, if someone upsets you and you say “You made me angry,” even if they really did do something hurtful, the conversation may quickly turn down an ineffective path.
So, the ability to stick with “I” language is a helpful one that will come in handy, especially in highly charged interchanges. For example, while the difference between saying “I felt angry when I heard what you said.” and “You made me angry.” is subtle, it can nonetheless have powerful consequences.
To practice using “I” statements, choose a controversial topic. Have a conversation with someone about it in which you only use “I” and never use “You.” Of course, this is extreme. Rarely, in an actual conversation, would you have to completely refrain from saying “You.” But going to this extreme can be a good way of practicing how to rephrase messages in the “I” style.
5. Focus on Nonverbal Communication
Some say that nonverbal communication conveys over 80% or more of the message received in an interaction. So it’s important to stay aware of it and include interpersonal communication skills activities that help us do that.
To raise this awareness, try this activity:
Create a script. Then have people act out the same script while pretending to be in different contexts and circumstances. This brings to light how the very same words can take on quite different meanings depending on the tone of voice and body language that stem from the situation in which they are said.
6. Practice Dealing with Challenging Emotions
One of the most difficult things to do is to employ effective communication skills during interactions that involve deep sadness, anger, frustration and other unpleasant feelings. You are most like to handle such engagements well if you have used communication skills activities to prepare for them ahead of time, just as athletes train to prepare themselves for the most difficult circumstances they may face before they actually set foot on the court or step into the ring.
The way you do this is through role playing. Have a person act out a scenario in which they are very upset or mad, especially at you. Think about and practice the most effective ways to respond. Then, when you find yourself in a similar situation in real life, you will be more familiar, comfortable and able to calmly handle it.
7. Intentional Dialogue
This is a wonderful method of communication promoted by the psychologist Harville Hendrix, in his book Getting the Love You Want.
It has 4 basic steps:
- An initial speaker, known as the sender, communicates something meaningful to a partner known as the receiver
- The receiver mirrors the communication by restating the message back as he or she heard it to make sure it was received accurately. This is repeated until the sender agrees that the receiver has accurately mirrored them.
- The receiver then validates the sender by considering and then expressing why what the sender has said “makes sense.”
- Finally, the receiver empathizes with the sender by expressing, perhaps through a story of their own, how they can relate to what the sender is feeling or experiencing.
Practice using intentional dialogue both in a training type of environment, as well as in your own personal life. It can be a moving experience for the sender and it provides an opportunity for the receiver to work on mirroring, validating and empathizing, all of which are among the most helpful listening skills activities.
8. Games of Description with Limited Communication
There are a number of games in which one person, under circumstances that limit the types of communication available, attempts to accurately describe something to another. They offer a fun way to practice multiple communication skills.
One popular form of these games revolves around one person explaining to the other how to make or do something using only the spoken word.
For instance, the two people may sit back to back, stand on opposite sites of a divider or the listener may wear a blindfold.
The speaker then directs the other person on how to construct an item, for example to create an object of a specific shape out of clay, or carry out a task, such as trying to drop a ball into a certain basket.
Then, they compare how closely the listener was able to match the intention held by the speaker and discuss what worked or did not work in the communication. They can then also talk about how those lessons apply to other situations in life.
Similar popular games like Charades or Pictionary enact the same principle, but limit communication to physical actions, writing or drawing rather than the spoken word.
The important thing for maximizing learning from these communication skills games is to take time after each part of the game or at the end of the game to discuss where communication succeeded or failed and the implications of that.
These are just a handful of the many wonderful communication skills activities available to help you enhance your interpersonal skills. There are many more. In the future, we may bring you others that we find beneficial and recommend.