Nonverbal Communication Activities for Adults

Facial expressions, posture, tone, inflection and other nuances of body language and speech may comprise more than 90 percent of communication, according to research reported in The Forensic Examiner. That means the words we choose make up less than 10 percent of our intended meaning any time we communicate. Nonverbal communication activities can help us learn to direct the power of these nonverbal cues--and to say more effectively what we really mean.

1 Jedi Mind Trick

Direct participants to stand in a circle with one person in the middle. No one is allowed to talk. The person in the middle wants to take the place of a person in the circle. People in the circle want to exchange places without becoming usurped by the person in the middle. To accomplish this, participants need to use eye contact and other nonverbal cues to communicate and negotiate a move.

2 Alphabetically

This activity challenges a group to say the letters of the alphabet in order without ever having two participants saying the same letter at the same time. Any sequence can be used; you may choose months, numbers or holidays instead.

3 Copy Cat

Direct participants to stand in a circle. Ask each person to silently choose a leader. They are not to tell anyone who their leader is. Explain that each person will mimic the moves or changes in position of her leader. Before beginning, ask each person to close her eyes and assume a pose. Eyes should open on the director's command, and position should not be changed except to follow one's leader. In the end, everyone will be in the same position.

4 Wireless Communication

Start this activity by placing a rope on the ground. Ask the group to select a listener. Bring that person forward 20 feet and blindfold him. He is not allowed to speak for the remainder of the game, and he cannot move unless directed to do so. Ask the group to select a communicator. Bring that person forward 10 feet and turn her so she faces the group, which should be standing on the starting line. The communicator may not turn around to look at the listener. She is the only person in the group allowed to speak. Give the group a set of instructions involving the use of props. For example: "Direct the listener to put the scarf on his head, the glove on his hand and take off his shoe." The group must communicate these instructions to the communicator without speaking, so the communicator can tell the blindfolded listener what to do.

5 Discussion Questions

Follow-up discussion is important for these games to be effective. Some discussion questions will be specific to the activity: How did it feel to be the one in the middle of the circle (Jedi Mind Trick). Other discussion questions are more general: What nonverbal cues did you use to accomplish the task? How do nonverbal cues affect group dynamics and leadership? How can you use this information to communicate more effectively? An experienced team building consultant can help you get the most out of these games.

Linda Basilicato has been writing food and lifestyle articles since 2005 for newspapers and online publications such as She graduated magna cum laude from Stony Brook University in New York and also holds a Master of Arts in philosophy from the University of Montana.