How to Developing Speaking skills

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50 Communications Activities, Icebreakers, and Exercises Peter R. Garber HRD Press, Inc. • Amherst • Massachusetts 4. I Know You Believe You Understand Description: A quote is presented to participants, and they are asked to explain what they believe its meaning is. Time Guideline: 20 minutes Purpose: To highlight how unclear communications can lead to confusing interpretations and to emphasize the need for clarity when communicating Resources: Handout 4-A Presentation: 1. Present Handout 4-A to participants and ask them what they think the statement means. 2. Expect participants to have differing interpretations, if any, of this very confusing statement. 3. There obviously is not a clear explanation for this statement. Apparently, this speaker was trying to say something about being misunderstood, but it is unclear what he or she was really trying to say. 4. Reveal the source of this quote and expect comments from participants about trying to communicate with a government agency or official to resolve a problem or to cut through government red tape. Debrief: Discuss what problems are created by these types of communications. Emphasize how much confusion ambiguous communications like this can cause in an organization. Ask participants to remember this quote when they are communicating with others as an example of how important clarify of communication is to being understood. 15 5. Communications Model Description: A communications model is presented to help participants better understand what actually needs to occur for effective communications to exist. Time Guideline: 30 minutes Purpose: To provide a conceptual model for participants to follow to help them become better communicators Resources: Handout 5-A Presentation: 1. Present Handout 5-A and explain that this represents a model showing how effective communications can be achieved. Although this may seem like a cumbersome process to go through, this model is used in some man- ner by many people in all of their communica- tions. 2. Go through the four steps shown in the model. Highlight that in this model there is a SENDER and a RECEIVER. 3. Start with the SENDER, and point out that the first step in the communications process involves the SENDER sending the message to the RECEIVER. Explain that even at this early step in the process, many problems can occur. For instance, the message may not be clearly communicated by the SENDER. This could be a function of the SENDER’s commu- nication skills or even the effort that this person puts forth to communicate clearly. 4. The second step involved the RECEIVER both hearing and responding to the message. There can be problems with both. The RECEIVER may not be able to clearly hear the message for any number of reasons, including distracting sounds or competition for his or 19 50 Communications Activities, Icebreakers, and Exercises Debrief: Explain that this model provides a communica- tions format that could be followed in any num- ber of different ways. Although it might not be practical to formally go through each of these steps in the model in every communication you have with others, ensuring that these concepts are used in some manner can help participants become better communicators. This is particu- larly important to ensure that the message is clearly communicated and understood. Tell the story about the supervisor who would ask employees to repeat back to him what he just said to them. By doing this, he taught his employees to be better listeners. They listened carefully to everything he instructed because they knew he would ask them to repeat what he said back to him. Difficulty Rating: Medium to high Variations: Have volunteer participants demonstrate how to use this model in a role play. 20 6. Listening Dilemma Description: Interesting facts are presented concerning the rate of words that we are able to hear versus the rate at which we speak and the dilemma this presents. Time Guideline: 20 minutes Purpose: To help participants understand why listening is such a big challenge for most people. Resources: Handout 6-A Presentation: 1. Distribute or present Handout 6-A to participants. 2. Explain that listening is a big challenge because you spend so much of your communications time listening—over 45%. If you are not a good listener, you will be a less effective communicator. 3. Explain that the average person speaks at about a rate of 150 words per minute (wpm). The problem is that we can hear at about a rate of 1,000 wpm. This obviously gives us a lot of extra time. 4. Ask participants what they do with this extra time. It is likely that they will say that they think about other things rather than what the other person is saying. 5. This is a big problem for many people and the reason why they are not good listeners. This creates the listening dilemma. Debrief: Discuss with participants some things they could do to stay focused on what the other person is saying and not be distracted by their own thoughts. For instance, the following listening tips can help you be a better listener: 23 50 Communications Activities, Icebreakers, and Exercises 1. Concentrate on what the speaker is saying, both with his or her words as well as with voice inflections, rate of speech, body lan- guage, etc. There are many things that can influence these communications, and pay- ing attention to as many as you possibly can will help keep you focused. 2. Try not to think about how you are going to respond to the other person while he or she is speaking to you. This will cause you to lose your concentration on what the other person is saying. 3. Interact nonverbally with the other person with small gestures or verbal affirmations, such as nodding your head or saying very brief comments such as “I see” or other words that would not interrupt the other person. This tells the other person that you are fully engaged in listening and also keeps you involved in the process. 4. Do not interrupt or finish the other per- son’s sentences. This takes your concen- tration completely away from what the other person is saying and focuses your attention on your own words. Difficulty Rating: Low Variations: After reviewing these four listening tips, have participants practice listening to each other while trying to focus totally on the other person’s words without being distracted. Have participants break up into pairs and take turns being the communicator and listener. Instruct each communicator to speak for about two to three minutes while their partner listens. Suggest that they describe their job duties to each other. After completing this exercise, discuss as a group how successful participants were totally concentrating on the other person’s words and not being distracted. 24 7. Interactive Listening Tips Description: Five interactive listening tips are presented to help participants learn to become better listeners. Time Guideline: 20 minutes Purpose: To provide a quick and easy-to-remember list of suggestions to help participants become better listeners. Resources: Handout 7-A Presentation: 1. Distribute present Handout 7-A. 2. Review these listening tips: a) Paraphrase the message to the speaker in order to confirm your understanding. Explain that by putting the message in your own words, you concentrate more on what was said, making you listen better. b) Repeat the message to help you remember what was said. Explain that by doing this to the other person’s satisfaction that you have heard his or her message correctly; you ensure that you not only are listening but really understand what was said. c) Probe for missing information. Explain that by requesting or asking questions, you find out any information that may have been missing in the communications or that you need or want. d) Clarify any points that you might not completely understand. Explain that this also ensures that you have heard exactly what the other person intended to communicate. 27 50 Communications Activities, Icebreakers, and Exercises e) Remember the important points of the message for future application. Explain that this helps you retain the most important points of the communication. Debrief: Ask participants how often they use these tips in their communications with others. It is likely that they use some or all of these tips on a regular basis, probably without being aware that they are using the tips. Ask participants how they could use them more often and what effect this would have on their listening skills. Difficulty Rating: Low Variations: Ask participants to share listening tips of their own with the group. 28 Handout 7-A Listening Tips • Paraphrase the message to the speaker in order to confirm your understanding. • Repeat the message to help you remember what was said. • Probe for missing information. • Clarify any points that you might not completely understand. • Remember the important points of the message for future application. 29 8. Listening Bad Habits Description: A list of listening bad habits is presented for participants to evaluate their listening skills. Time Guideline: 30 minutes Purpose: To help participants better understand areas in which they can improve their listening deficiencies. Resources: Handout 8-A Presentation: 1. Distribute Handout 8-A to participants and ask them to complete it. 2. Explain that each participant will use this list of listening bad habits to honestly evaluate his or her listening skills or lack thereof. 3. Explain that participants are to check the bad habits they may be sometimes guilty of committing when communicating with others. 4. Emphasize that most people have some problems being good listeners and these bad habits are not unusual for people to demonstrate. Debrief: Emphasize again that most people are, at least from time to time, guilty of many or most of these listening bad habits. The most important thing is to be aware of your tendency to fall into these bad habits and consciously try to avoid making these mistakes. Tell participants not to be too hard on themselves if they check many or even all of these bad habits. It is all part of human nature Difficulty Rating: Medium to high Variations: Ask participants what other listening bad habits they can think of and share with the group. 31 Handout 8-A Listening Bad Habits Following is a list of ten bad habits of listening. Check those listening bad habits that you are sometimes guilty of committing when communicating with others. Be honest with yourself … I interrupt often or try to finish the other person’s sentences. … I jump to conclusions. … I am often overly parental and answer with advice, even when not requested. … I make up my mind before I have all the information. … I am a compulsive note taker. … I don’t give any response afterward, even if I say I will. … I am impatient. … I lose my temper when hearing things I don’t agree with. … I try to change the subject to something that relates to my own experiences. … I think more about my reply while the other person is speaking than what he or she is saying. 33 9. Listening Questionnaire Description: A listening test is presented to participants to measure their effectiveness as listeners. Time Guideline: 30 minutes Purpose: To help participants better understand their weaknesses and strengths as listeners. Resources: Handouts 9-A and 9-B Presentation: 1. Distribute Handout 9-A to participants. 2. Ask participants to evaluate their listening skills. 3. Tell participants to write the number in the column that most accurately describes their listening skills for each of the statements. 4. Point out that the best score for each statement is 5, indicating that the participant never has that particular listening problem. 5. Give participants about 5 minutes to complete the questionnaire. 6. After participants have completed the questionnaire, display the scoring key in Handout 9-B. 7. Have participants total the number of points for the seven statements. A perfect score is 35 points. 8. Ask if anyone had a perfect score. 9. Review the scoring ranges for being an effective listener, good listener, and not-so- good listener, and if anyone scores less than 13 points, their listening skills might be best described as HUH? Debrief: This exercise and the results should be fun and not taken too seriously. The purpose of the exercise is to allow participants to give some 35 50 Communications Activities, Icebreakers, and Exercises thought as to how they can specifically improve their listening skills. The statements are all phrased in the negative to point out many of the most common problems that people have listening. Difficulty Rating: Low to medium Variations: Ask participants to rate someone else whom they have difficulty communicating with concerning his or her listening skills. The purpose would be to better understand that person’s listening skills and think about how best to communicate with this individual given these results. 36 10. Seven Levels of Listening Description: Seven levels of listening, from the lowest level to the highest, are presented. Time Guideline: 20 minutes Purpose: To illustrate that there are different levels of listening that can determine how effectively you communicate with others. Resources: Handout 10-A Presentation: 1. Distribute Handout 10-A and review the seven levels of listening. 2. Point out that each involves greater levels of involvement and commitment to listening on the part of the listener. 3. Give examples of each type of listening from your own experiences. For instance, ask participants if they have ever experienced level 1 or level 2 listening when someone just was not listening to them when they had something to say. Or ask if they have ever been given only part of someone’s attention when trying to communicate with another person. Ask participants how that made them feel. 4. Explain that levels 5–7 involve higher, more involved levels of listening. Explain that the last three levels of listening involve not just hearing the words but trying to understand the meaning behind them from the other person’s perspective as well as your own. 5. Explain that Level 5, interpretive listening, involves really trying to hear not only the person’s words but the feelings and emotions of the communication. 41 50 Communications Activities, Icebreakers, and Exercises 6. Level 6, interactive listening, involves becoming part of the communications process. It involves asking clarifying questions and acknowledging understanding of the other person’s words and emotions being conveyed. 7. Level 7, engaged listening, involves not only hearing and understanding the other person but also expressing your feelings and emotions as well. Explain, however, that truly engaged listening doesn’t compete with the other person’s desire to communicate his or her feelings. In engaged listening, each person provides the other the opportunity to fully express himself or herself. Debrief: Explain that not every communication with others is the same and at the same level. The level of listening involved should be appropriate for the situation. Even some of the first levels of listening may be appropriate given the situation. Ask participants if they can think of a situation in which this might be true. For example, often when waiting for some form of transportation, such as at an airport, you might only listen for information concerning your own flight and tune out the rest of the information you might hear. There are other times when all you need to do is focus and understand the other person’s message, and interacting or interpreting is not appropriate or necessary for the situation. An example might be when receiving directions from someone. Ask participants if they can think of other examples in which each of these levels of listening may be the most appropriate. Difficulty Rating: Medium to high Variations: Ask participants to role play or demonstrate for each other these different levels of listening. 42 Handout 10-A Seven Levels of Listening 1 Not listening: Not paying attention to or ignoring the other person’s communications. 2 Pretend listening: Acting like or giving the impression that you are paying attention to another person’s communications, but in actuality not really paying attention to that individual. 3 Partially listening: Only focusing on part of the other person’s communication or only giving it your divided attention. 4 Focused listening: Giving the other person your undivided attention to his or her communication. 5 Interpretive listening: Going beyond just paying attention but really trying to understand what the other person is communicating. 6 Interactive listening: Being involved in the communications by asking clarifying questions or acknowledging understanding of the communication. 7 Engaged listening: Being fully engaged in communications involves listening to the other person’s views, feelings, interpretations, values, etc., concerning the communication and sharing yours as well with the other person(s). In engaged listening, both parties are given the opportunity to fully express their views, feelings, and ideas. 43 11. Silent Messages Description: The concept of what happens when one doesn’t communicate or say anything is explored in this activity. Time Guideline: 20 minutes Purpose: To explain that not communicating sometimes sends a stronger message than if you did say something. Resources: None Presentation: 1. Explain that many times when we think we are not communicating we are actually send- ing a very strong message. These are the “silent” messages that sometimes get inad- vertently sent to others. 2. Make the point that often when we say “noth- ing” we are actually saying a lot. 3. Being silent and not saying anything may actually be sending a strong message to others. This is particularly true for supervi- sors, managers, or anyone in a position of authority. For example, if you see inappro- priate or unproductive behaviors by employ- ees and don’t say or do anything to correct the situation, you are actually saying a great deal. Your lack of communications could be misinterpreted as condoning these behaviors. This may be completely opposite of your intent. 4. Ask participants to provide examples of these silent messages. Debrief: Conclude the activity by emphasizing that espe- cially individuals in leadership positions must be conscious of the fact that if they don’t say any- thing when behaviors need to be corrected or complimented that unintended messages may be sent. We need to be careful about these “silent messages.” 45 12. The Three Levels of Communications Description: This activity presents statistics relating to the way we receive communications and the true messages being sent by others. Time Guideline: 30 minutes Purpose: To help participants understand what an important part nonverbal behaviors and voice inflections play in how we both send and receive messages. Resources: Handouts 12-A and 12-B Presentation: 1. Introduce the activity by explaining that when we communicate face-to-face with others, we receive messages on three basic levels: verbal behaviors, voice inflections, and vocabulary. Distribute or present Handout 12-A. 2. Explain that vocabulary messages consist of the actual words we use to communicate with others. 3. Explain that voice inflections consist of the way that someone says something. This would include tone, speed, emotions, pace, volume, etc. The way someone says some- thing can dramatically change the meaning of the words being spoken. 4. Finally explain that nonverbal behaviors include body language, facial expressions, gestures, etc., that someone might use while communicating with others. 5. Ask participants which of these three fac- tors—nonverbal behaviors, voice inflections, or vocabulary—is most important. In other words, which is most influential in sending a message from one person to another? 47 50 Communications Activities, Icebreakers, and Exercises 6. Distribute or present Handout 12-B. Explain that studies have shown that • 7% of what we communicate is based on vocabulary; • 38% of what we communicate is based on voice inflections; and • 55% of what we communicate is based on nonverbal behaviors. 7. Ask participants if these statistics surprise them. 8. Explain that so much of the messages we get from others is from their nonverbal behaviors. Ask participants to share their perception of what nonverbal behaviors are. Explain that nonverbal behavior is also called body lan- guage. You don’t have to be an expert to learn to read other people’s body language such as crossed arms, a defensive posture, or even facial expressions. Ask participants if they ever had the experience of knowing what someone was going to say by his or her body language before he or she even began talking. 9. Explain that 38% of a message is sent via a person’s voice inflections. Explain that voice inflections are how you say things. The very same word or words said another way with different voice inflections could take on an entirely different meaning. For example, ask a participant to say the word no with a voice inflection indicating doubt. Ask another par- ticipant to say this same word with a voice inflection indicating a definitive negative answer. Comment on the dramatic difference in meaning between these two different interpretations of the way this same two- letter word was just spoken. 10. Ask participants what they think happens on the telephone to voice inflections. The answer is that because there are no nonverbal cues to observe, the influence of voice inflec- tions dramatically goes up, accounting for 88% of the message being sent to the person on the other end of the phone. 48 The Three Levels of Communications 11. Finally, point out that there is only 7% left for the actual words themselves. The actual words themselves account for such a small percentage of the total because there can be so many different interpretations of a message based on such things as nonverbal behaviors or voice inflections that may not have been initially intended. This is why it is so important to pay close attention not only to what is being said, but how something is being said, because this is where the true meaning of the communication can be found. Debrief: Explain to participants that to become more effective communicators they need to pay attention to these three levels of communica- tions when communicating with others. By becoming more conscious and even in control of the way you say things, you can help ensure that you are being understood by others. We need to be careful in our communications not to send what is often called “mixed messages” to others. A mixed message in this sense is when the actual words being spoken are not consistent with the speaker’s voice inflections and/or body language. This confuses others and makes them unsure of what was the real message being sent. You will notice that the most effective commu- nicators present a consistent message concern- ing these three levels of communications. Difficulty Rating: Medium to high Variations: Demonstrate examples of where these three levels of communications are inconsistent. Make a statement but say it in such a way that your voice inflections and nonverbal behaviors are not consistent with the message. For example, you might say, “I am really very excited about being here,” however, say this in a monotone, low voice, lacking any enthusiasm. In addition, cross your arms and look down with a disgusted look on your face. Ask participants what the real message was in your communication and how it was different than the words you spoke. 49