Communication: Listening Skills

Many of us are under the assumption that communication is just talking to people. It is so much more than that. For example – communication is about listening as well as speaking. This is important in both your personal and professional life. You can learn, re-learn and perfect these skills with some practice.

For professionals in the workplace it is a fact that employees who possess exemplary listening skills are valuable members of the workplace. Effective listening skills can help you further your career in many aspects. They can improve your customer service relationships, improve relationships with your peers and supervisors and prevent misunderstandings that can happen due to poor communication. I recommend holding regular workshops with your employees to assist them in developing their skills. Below are some exercises to help you sharpen listening skills.

Duplication Exercise

Duplication is an activity that can show employees how their listening skills may need improvement. This activity can make listening skills tangible. This activity can demonstrate how well they listen. Ultimately it can assist them in developing their overall listening skills. This activity works well with multiple participants. Tools needed: pencils, paper and at least 4-5 employees.

All employees must sit or stand in a line. The first employee in the line writes down a phrase on a piece of paper. Then this same employee whispers the phrase to the next employee in line. The next employee must whisper the statement verbatim to the following employee, then the next, and so on. Once the statement reaches the last person in line, it is this participant’s job to repeat the statement out loud as it was passed to them. The point of the activity is to see how the original statement changed by the time it reached the last person in line.

Verbal Instruction

Verbal instruction is an activity that can help employees measure how well they receive information verbally. Put employees into groups of four or five people. Mix up the groups with employees which they normally do not associate with. Each group is to nominate a “listener.” This person will receive instructions from the rest of the group. The objective of this exercise is for the listener to translate or apply the instructions given to them verbally into a diagram or chart. For example, group members instruct the listener to draw a square with a circle in the middle. The listener carries out the instructions on a whiteboard according to how they interpret the instructions. Repeat this exercise until everyone in the group has taken a turn at being the listener.


Have you ever noticed that no two people interpret verbal information the same way? This activity is to get your employees to see how well they can summarize information. For this activity you can keep all of the employees into one large group. The facilitator reads a short story and chooses an employee to paraphrase the story. Repeat this with different stories and several different employees. After each summary, other employees can give their personal interpretations of what they heard.


Practicing improvisation techniques will help your employees improve their listening skills. This activity will allow your employees to spontaneously respond to suggestions or phrases provided by the facilitator. The activity begins with the facilitator making a simple statement such as “I went to the market yesterday,” or “My car just broke down.” Each employee provides a statement or phrase that cohesively adds to the storyline. The purpose of the activity is to create a meaningful and organized story by listening to the statements of each preceding participant.