Our previous blog entitled Effective Communication was published earlier this month. Now we are providing some more details of activities that can promote more effective communication using various methods and bring a little fun to your training sessions.
First, let’s look at what is actually involved in effective communication.
The person sending the message has to consider the most effective method of conveying the message. This may be spoken, written, non-verbal or a mixture of all three. The content and purpose of what they want to convey is also very important as is the response or reaction that they are intending to achieve. What you say, when you say it and why it is said are key factors.
The sender needs to consider the words or actions they use very carefully. The message needs to be clear and unambiguous. Get someone to check the message to see that it conveys the right message and will be understood by the receiver. Body language is another consideration when delivering the message in a face to face environment – the non-verbal messages that we naturally give out and need to be aware of and control.
The primary role of the receiver is to listen. Next they need to understand and interpret the message. The next stage is to either respond or perform the action or react accordingly. Active listening skills are part of the effective communication skill. One quote from the Dalai Lama is “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know; But when you listen, you may learn something new”. That is oh so true!
The sender needs to know that the message has been received and understood, so this is achieved with a response which is either a message or with the desired actions carried out and reported back as successful (or not, as the case may be)!
There are many considerations required for each element which we have partially covered above. Our course on Effective Communication explores these considerations to ensure your communication skills are the most effective.
In a face to face situation just over half of what we communicate is based on the non-verbal aspects, such as eye contact and gestures, around 38% is based on the voice, inflections and tone. The remaining element is the smallest and this is the actual vocabulary used.
Are we born with good communication skills or is communication a skill that we learn? It is a personal opinion, but I think that although the majority of us are born with an ability to make a noise and hear things, learning to do those two things in an effective combined way is something we have to learn. Making our message understood is also crucial.
Communication skills don’t come naturally to most people, and what is more, they can be difficult to train. The theory can get you so far, but like most learned skills, practice makes perfect.
Effective communication is essential in any relationship – personal relationships with family and friends and, of course, with our work colleagues.
Effective communication shows that we value and respect the other person; it makes us feel more comfortable with them and encourages further effective communication between the two. It allows the transfer of information and ideas without barriers, almost like a brainstorm, without the worries that one will be ridiculed by the other.
Our perceptions of things differ. Remember the drawing above? Do you see an old lady or a young lady? To convince someone who sees a young lady that there is also an alternative – an old lady in the drawing, requires some serious thought and clear explanation of where to look (hint – necklace versus mouth). Sometimes it is not easy to see how other people perceive things. If you say to someone “I’ll get back to you in a bit”, how long is a bit? Some think it is 5-30 minutes, some think at least same day, others think it is within 2-3 days. The way we interpret information is so different. There are many activities that draw on assumptions and perceptions.
Have you heard of the invisible gorilla clip? This shows how we have selective attention – we take note of only certain things that we see and hear.
Here are some activities for you to try. Each one is aimed at a different element, such as formulating clear and precise instructions, listening to what is being said and what is not being said, the power of body language versus verbal instruction, etc.
This exercise shows how we all interpret things differently, despite being given the same information. The debrief and feedback session will highlight the importance of being able to ask questions and confirm understanding to ensure the communicated message is not distorted.
- Give one sheet of standard A4-sized paper to each participant.
- Tell your participants that you will be giving them step-by-step instructions on how to fold their piece of paper into an origami shape.
- Inform your participants that they must keep their eyes and mouths closed as they follow instructions; they are not allowed to look at their paper (or anyone else’s) or ask any clarifying questions.
- Give the group your instructions on how to fold the paper into the origami shape of your choice.
- Once the instructions have all been given, have everyone open their eyes and compare their shape with the intended shape.
This game encourages co-operation, successful teamwork and trust, which are all crucial for effective communication. When there is a lack of trust, it builds suspicion and inhibits collaborative teamwork and participation of an individual.
Create an obstacle course using chairs, boxes, books, etc. Divide the participants into pairs. Blindfold one of the pair and position them at the start of the obstacle course. The second person then has to guide the blindfolded person through the course by giving directions and distance etc. Others can watch, but not interrupt or prompt. Ask for another pair – perhaps get them to go outside and re-arrange the course a little.
Telephone Relay (Chinese Whispers)
You probably know how this one works from your childhood, but a couple of adaptations make this more of a real-life exercise.
Split the participants into two groups and get each group to form a line. Whisper a message such as “Hello, I am in Room 712. May I please have the sirloin steak, cooked medium rare, garlic potatoes and salad with the dressing on the side?” to the first person in one line. Whisper a different message such as “I’d like to order a chocolate birthday cake for a week on Friday. Can I have the name James and 11 iced on it, please.” to the first person in the second line. Having two different messages relayed at the same time creates a more normal office atmosphere, where there are possible distractions. While participants are busy passing the message along to the next person in line, play music or engage them in conversation to create some background noise. This will make it a bit more difficult, but again it will mimic real-life conditions.
Get the last and first person in each line to state the message they were given.
This shows the power of body language over spoken words.
- Explain to the group that you are going to give them a series of instructions, which you would like them to copy as quickly as they can.
- State the following actions as YOU do them:
- Put your hand to your nose
• Clap your hands
• Stand up
• Touch your left shoulder
• Sit down
• Stamp your right foot
• Cross your arms
- Touch your right
• Put your hand on your chin – BUT WHEN YOU SAY THIS PUT YOUR HAND TO YOUR NOSE
- Observe the number of participants who copy what you did rather than what you said.
What’s the point of this activity? Facilitate discussion on how body language can reinforce verbal communication, however it can also be stronger than verbal communication – it is important that we are aware of our body language in order to ensure we are projecting the right message.
Effective Communication is an essential skill that we should continue to practise, as a Change Manager, a Trainer, anyone responsible for communication in the organisation and all of us in our everyday lives!
We include elements of this topic in many of our courses, but we have a specific course called Effective Communication in our Change Management category – aimed at improving your communication skills. We also offer a course on Icebreakers and Games (in our Train The Trainer category) where we explore different activities to enhance the learning experience and make it more fun.
16 March 2020