A great opportunity to improve your active listening skills is Active listening exercises and it has some fun. Being an active listener can come naturally and can be developed.
For effective communication, active listening skills is very important. If you are not a good listener, then never can be a good communicator. Active listening skills are crucial in every aspect of your life, both personal and professional.
Research also suggests that active listening has many health benefits such as better learning, improved memory, treatment of anxiety disorders, etc.
In this article, we will discuss the definition of active listening, examples of active listening skills, and active listening exercises.
What are active listening skills?
Active listening refers to the process of listening carefully and understanding what the other person is saying. This listening method makes the speaker feel heard and valued.
Active listening skills are the ability to listen carefully and make a conscious effort to understand the speaker’s messages.
Some examples of active listening skills are given below:
- Ask Open-Ended Questions.
- Pay Attention and Show it.
- Withhold Judgment.
- Avoid Obstacles.
- Pay Attention to Non-Verbal Cues.
- Ask Clarifying Questions.
- Give Short Verbal Confirmation etc.
Now to discuss active listening exercises, there 20 active listening exercises are divided into four categories below, viz:
a. Make the speaker feel heard.
b. Listen to retain information.
c. Ask questions.
d. Pay attention to nonverbal cues.
a. Make the speaker feel heard.
Mainly active listening is about making the speaker feel heard. As an active listener, you need to pay full attention and show it.
These exercises will help you show your audience that you are paying attention to their messages.
1. List examples of good and bad listening skills you know.
Good listening skills include nodding, smiling, maintaining eye contact, showing empathy, etc.
Poor listening skills may include looking at your phone or watch, fidgeting, interrupting, rehearsing answers, etc.
This exercise will make you aware of avoidance skills and developing skills.
2. Ask someone to share their past experience.
Ask your friends or family members, especially two, to share stories from their past. For example, when the person was hospitalized on the first day at university, etc.
When you’re listening in the first person, try asking questions. Then, share a similar experience as you listen to the other person and ask each speaker when they feel heard and respected.
3. 3-Minutes Off.
In this activity, the speaker talks for three minutes about their dream vacation. The speaker should describe what he wants from the holiday but without specifying a destination.
When the speaker is speaking, the listener pays attention and uses only nonverbal cues to indicate interest in what the speaker is saying.
After 3 minutes, the listener must summarize the key points of the speaker’s dream vacation and then guess the name of the destination.
The speaker then reviews how close the listener was to what was said and needed. Also, the speaker discusses the listener’s nonverbal cues.
4. Discuss a common topic with your friend.
Pair up with your friend and discuss a common topic. For example, inflation.
Each of you should be a speaker or a listener. When the speaker has finished speaking, the audience should repeat the speaker’s main points and praise them.
5. Many-to-one versus one-to-one.
Have a group conversation with your friends. At a time allow one person to speak.
Then, conversation with each of them one by one. Ask, when have they heard the most? Does the number of participants matter?
6. Paraphrase what the speaker said.
Ask your friend to tell you about yourself – his favorite books, bad experiences in life, etc.
When he speaks, maintain positive body languages such as nodding and verbal affirmations such as “I agree”, “I understand”, etc.
When your friend (the speaker) has finished speaking, repeat what he said. For example, “I heard you say that your favorite actor…”
b. Listen to retain information.
Active listening is not just about giving the speaker a sense of being heard or non-verbal cues. It requires listeners to make a conscious effort to remember what they hear.
The following active listening exercises will help you retain information.
1. Ask someone to share a story with you.
Ask someone to read the story to you and ask you questions after the person tells the story.
“What was the character’s name?” Questions like “Can you summarize the story?” etc.
2. Who said it?
This active listening exercise involves two parts:
Part 1: You should watch a movie or an episode of a series with your friend. Listen clearly to each dialogue.
Part 2: Ask your friend to ask questions based on what a certain character says.
For example, which character said that life is not problematic?
3. Read a storybook.
If you don’t have someone to tell you stories, read short story books that often have questions at the end of each chapter.
After reading each chapter, answer the questions and go back to read the chapter to check if your answers are correct.
4. Take notes.
When giving a presentation at school or at work, listen to the speaker, then paraphrase his or her messages in your own words.
You can always go back to this note if you forget any of the speaker’s messages.
5. Play the “Spot the Change” game.
This is a two-person activity. Ask your friend to read a short story and then he has to read it again after making some changes.
Every time you hear a change, clap your hands or raise your hand and there was a chance.
6. Put your question.
Ask your friends to create a WhatsApp group. Give them a specific topic to discuss in groups. Your friends should be admins. You should also be added to this group but not as an admin.
Before your friends start discussing, group settings should be changed so that only admins can send messages.
After they discuss the topic, they can open the group, so you can ask your questions. This way you have no choice but to keep your questions until they are talking and there will be no room for interruption.
7. Read a long blog post.
Try reading a long article of at least 1,500 words. Pay full attention while you are reading this article. At the end of the article, most article writers usually add questions. Check out these questions and provide answers in the comments section.
c. Ask questions.
In active listening, asking relevant questions is very important. You can ask questions to ask for clarification or get additional information. These exercises will help you ask relevant questions at appropriate times.
1. Clarification vs No Clarification
Ask your friend to send you on an errand. For example, help me with my bag. Go ahead and bring a bag without asking questions.
Ask the same friend to refer you again. For example, help me with my shoes. But now I want an explanation.
You can ask these questions:
- Do you mean your flat shoes or your sneakers?
- Is it red sneakers?
After performing these tasks, ask your friend when you have delivered to his satisfaction. When you ask the question or when you didn’t? This active listening exercise teaches the importance of asking for clarification to improve one’s understanding of a topic.
2. Play a drawing game.
This is another two-person exercise. So, to do this you need a person and you can do this exercise with your siblings, friends, or even your parents.
Ask your friend or you to choose as your partner to get a sheet containing different shapes like triangles, circles, squares, etc. You should get a pencil and a sheet of paper but one is blank. Then, you and your friend will sit back to back.
Ask your friend to describe the shapes of the sheet with him. Then draw the shapes based on your friend’s answer.
Finally, you should compare both sheets to see if you have copied the drawing correctly.
This exercise will show you the importance of asking the right questions to get the information you need.
3. Three Whys.
This activity exercise requires two people – a speaker and a listener.
Speakers will speak for about a minute on any topic of interest to them. Then, the listener must pay close attention to what the speaker is saying and be able to ask “why” questions.
These questions were not already answered by the speaker in their one-minute speech. The idea is to find questions that are not answered by the speaker.
This activity exercise is very useful and it will help you learn how to ask relevant questions, which will provide additional information.
d. Pay Attention to Nonverbal Cues.
Nonverbal signals are capable of communicating thousands of words. During a conversation, you should always be aware of your nonverbal cues and the speakers. These exercises will teach you the importance of paying attention to non-verbal cues.
1. Talk to an absent audience.
This exercise also included two-person, where the speaker talks about something they are passionate about. The speaker should use a lot of non-verbal cues like facial expressions, hand gestures, etc.
The listener, unknown to the speaker, should be instructed to show disinterest using nonverbal cues such as looking at the phone, sneezing, looking around the room, leaning back in a chair, etc.
The speaker’s body language will change. The speaker will be really frustrated and annoyed.
This exercise helps to show the importance of positive nonverbal cues from the listener to the speaker.
2. Mime it out.
This is a two-person activity. Give someone, maybe a friend or colleague, a story to read. Your friend should read the story for about 5 minutes and come up with expressions that he thinks are appropriate to describe the story.
At the end of 5 minutes, ask your friend to describe the story using non-verbal cues. You need to understand these non-verbal cues and tell your friend what the story is.
To develop an understanding of nonverbal cues this exercise will help a lot. You’ll also learn how to read nonverbal cues.
3. Listen without speaking.
Ask someone to tell a story about their life – such as their last birthday. Listen without saying anything but give non-verbal cues. Ask the person if your nonverbal cues are encouraging.
4. Guess the figure.
For this exercise, you need to form a team, the team will have at least 4 members. The team chooses one person to examine a picture and describe the picture using hand gestures and other nonverbal cues.
This person will face the image and other team members will not face the image. The rest of the team members try to guess the name of the depicted figure based on non-verbal cues.
Play this game over and over and exchange roles with other team members. To read and interpret nonverbal cues this exercise is more helpful.
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The active listening skills listed above can improve your ability to listen actively. If you want to improve your listening skills, explore our article on active listening. You’ll learn key active listening skills that will change your life.
We want to know if you have used active listening exercises. Have you noticed any improvement? Let us know in the comments section.