The key to good communication is in the listening. Is it important for you to be able to clearly communicate your thoughts as well? Absolutely! If you listen to how someone communicates with you, it will give you a better understanding of how to present something to them in a way that they understand.
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you are having difficulty communicating with someone the first thing you should do is take a step back and assess whether you are actively listening to the other person. Communication skills are important in any relationship whether it be business or personal. Communication requires give and take. The give being what you contribute to the conversation in a verbal way. The take being exactly what you take away from the conversation. The hope is that you take away just as much as you give.
Let’s look at some listening exercises that can help you improve your communication. We want to not only determine if you can listen but how you are listening; whether you are just hearing the words someone is saying or understanding the meaning behind them. These exercises are geared towards groups of people but they also concentrate on maintaining focus while listening, being engaged while listening, and active listening.
A tricky story: In this exercise, you tell a story identifying your audience as being the main character of the story. Before you start, you let them know they can take as many notes as they want. You pepper the story with plenty of detail THEN at the end you ask a question about the main character. If they paid attention, they understand they are the main character of the story. They can answer the question about themselves with no difficulty.
Active listening: Unfortunately there’s no fun game to go along with this one! It’s just something you must practice and roleplay to get good at. Active listening includes nodding your head when someone else is talking to you. This reflects that you’re in agreement with what they’re saying or when you want to confirm that you heard what they said. It includes leaning forward when someone is saying something important so that they know you’re engaged with what they’re saying. It includes asking questions if you feel there’s a part of the story that needs to be clarified. All of these actions let them know that you’re listening and it keeps you engaged in the conversation.
Simon Says/Concentration: It’s basically Simon Says. The person leading stands up in front of everyone else and tells them an action that they should perform while assumingly performing the action. They will occasionally tell them one thing and do something else. For example, the person leading says “clap your hands” and starts hopping on one foot instead. This is to see if those that are participating are listening to the words or watching the actions.
Personal Details: In a group setting, ask everyone to share a quirky hobby, childhood nickname, or some other memorable detail about themselves. When everyone has had a turn to share something the leader will start calling on people around the room asking them to provide the information that someone else shared. This is an incredibly difficult exercise because even though the information that you are asking for should be memorable you’re also taking in a lot of new information all at once.
I’ve just named a few listening exercises that you can do to help yourself become a more effective communicator. There are many more options out there. Practice them at work or with your family. Just don’t let your listening skills fade into the background.