Developing good listening skills is important for effective communication in both personal relationships and business interactions. Being a good listener is not as simple as keeping silent when someone is talking. Strategies in demonstrating non-verbal signals, proper body positioning and offering relevant feedback all make a person a more skilled listener. There are several games you can use to brush up on positive listening skills.
Listening Cues Game
For the first game, split up into two-person teams. Person 1 reads a news article to Person 2, while Person 2 displays poor listening behavior -- such as fidgeting, looking around, interrupting to ask questions and making inappropriate facial expressions. When they are through, Person 2 then explains the article that was just read to him, back to Person 1. This time, Person 1 should display positive listening skills, such as making eye contact, sitting still, making appropriate facial cues and taking notes and waiting until the end to ask questions. Have each group review the article together, and identify things that Person 2 missed because he wasn't listening closely. This exercise demonstrates how important it is to use proper listening behaviors to understand the message being relayed.
Listening With Distractions Game
The second game is played with a large group. It's best executed without informing the group what the objective is. Simply explain that you will read a story (any story will do). Give people on the left side of the room a task. For example, ask some of them to count now many times you say the word "and," and ask others to count the number of times you smile. Give people on the right side of the room no task at all, except to listen. Next, read the story. When you have finished, ask each group member to write down answers to three questions about your story. You will find that the people who were distracted by a task may not answer the questions as easily as those who were listening without tasks. Discuss how difficult it was for people to pay attention when they were not focused on the message itself.
This game will take some preparation beforehand. Ask people to each prepare a small presentation on a debatable issue using three to five focus points. Now have the group members partner up. Ask Person 1 to make her presentation to her partner. When she is through, the partner must give feedback, either positive or negative. Person 1 has the opportunity to change her message based on the feedback. Next, have everyone switch partners, and Person 1 delivers her presentation again to a new partner. Discuss with the group how feedback changed their messages and made them either more efficient or more garbled.
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