Listening Skills™ | Communication Training Activity

In just one hour, participants rate their listening skills and discover how to improve. A newly revised and updated training pack.

Learning Objectives

  • to demonstrate how most people fail to listen properly
  • to balance active listening with communicating one's own points
  • to understand the main behaviours that hinder effective listening
  • to understand the main behaviours that help effective listening
  • to identify where individuals' strengths lie - and what needs to be worked on.

Repeat Use Licence

This Northgate training activity comes with a licence for repeat use with up to 15 participants per training session within your organisation. Please ask for a discount for use with larger groups.

  • Participants

    4-15 (up to 3 groups of 4-5 per group)

  • Timing

    1 hour + debrief

  • Uses a computer?

    Not required

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The Activity

This fun communication challenge is about balancing speaking and listening - and doing both well.

Participants prepare for a meeting. There are four people to each meeting. Each person has their own, specific brief which sets the scene and provides a list of issues - and opinions - that he/she must raise during the meeting. (This activity is not about role play). They also each have a set of 10 counters. To speak at the meeting, a person must first put one counter in a central pot. They now speak and the others listen, but the speaker must stop and give way if another person drops a counter in the pot. The objective for each person at the meeting is to listen to what everyone else has to say AND communicate their own issues and opinions.

At the end of the meeting, participants complete an Analysis Form to assess how well they listened.

The analysis demonstrates how participants nearly always underperform when compared with their expectations. They realise, along with everyone else, how little they know of what was said and how much they misunderstood. We have good intentions but we are also easily distracted. Eye contact goes, we lose focus, thoughts stray and attitudes and emotions get in the way! Staying an ACTIVE listener isn't easy! This activity leads into a discussion about what traits show in poor listeners and the key behaviours in effective listeners (full guidance in Trainer's Notes).

Some participants can act as Meeting Observers. It's optional but they have an important role in recording the ebb and flow of the meeting, and can offer useful meeting reviews for the debrief.

Trainer's Role

Full guidance is given in the Trainer's Notes.

  • Introduce the activity explaining that they are all taking part in meetings and the emphasis is on effective listening.
  • Divide the group into sets of four (using any 'overs' as Meetings Observers).
  • Allocate a set of four name-plates, counter cup and counters to each set of four people.
  • Allocate a set of four Briefs to each table so each person receives the Brief that corresponds with their name-plate (no conferring between the four people).
  • Allow them 10 minutes to prepare for a meeting.
  • Meanwhile issue an Observer's Form and a set of highlighter pens to each observer and explain their role.
  • Announce the start of the meeting. Explain it will last for 20-30 minutes.
  • After 30 minutes, stop the meeting and issue Analysis Sheets.
  • Allow 10-15 minutes for completion.
  • Go through the Analysis Sheet.
  • Lead a Debrief on the main learning points and issue the Ten Top Tips handout.

Pack Contents

  • Trainer’s Notes
  • Sets of Briefs
  • Observer’s Forms
  • Analysis Sheets
  • Name Plates
  • Sets of Counters
  • Counter Cups
  • Sets of Felt Pens
  • Handout: Top Tips for Better Listening

'Listening Skills' demonstrates how effective communication can improve individual and organisational performance.

Peter Grundy, Bank of America

'Listening Skills' is great fun! Turns a soft skill from subjective feelings into hard data.

D. Schofield, Lloyds TSB

'Listening Skills' helps focus our training and works well as a group activity.

C. Dick, University of Strathclyde

We were extremely satisfied with the 'Listening Skills' activity and love the Northgate games.

Pamela Malkin, Organisational Development Consultant, Golden Charter GBP

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