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Active Listening Exercise


I am looking for a very short "Active Listening" exercise I can use with a group of 6 delegates. I have searched the archive and most of the suggested activities involve a longer time period.

The audience group will be trainee sales advisers and the object of the exercise is to show the importance of listening to their client's needs.

Many thanks.

Christine Kelly

You may also find the following articles of interest:

  1. The business benefits of listening
  2. A short course in listening
  3. Are they really listening?
  4. Extreme listening: Improve your leadership skills

9 Responses

  1. Active Listening Exercise
    Hi Christine,

    A simple exercise you might want to try.

    Chinese Whispers – have your delegates in a line and whisper 2 different messages one starting at one end of the line and one starting at the other. Play music, encourage giggling etc. When the messages have been passed to the final person ask the original recipients if they can first of all remember the message and then the final recipients what message they received. Enables you to draw out all of the areas that stop you from actively listening and then what you can do to ensuer you are actively listening.

    Please do get in touch if you would like some more ideas,


  2. stop listening exercise
    One that works well for me is to take half the group outside the room and ask those in the room to think of a topic they are really passionate about/interested in – eg family, films, football team etc.

    those outside room come back inside and pair up to listen actively to the story. However you have pre-warned them to stop listening (demonstrate this) after about 30 seconds and see what happens.

    usually the speakers get really frustrated and annoyed leading to useful debrief discussion on the impact of listening/how to listen etc.

  3. Listening skills exercise
    Whilst the suggestions below do answer your direct request, I’d like to take a different tack. I bet if you asked these 6 delegates whether they think it is important to listen to clients they would all say yes. I wonder whether this sort of awareness training is worthwhile or will make any difference. The types of exercises suggested may be valuable as warm up activities, or to reinforce that listening isn’t easy, but to get changed behaviour requires a different approach. I suspect that what they need is skills training so they know how to listen effectively. But do forgive me if I am wrong.
    Assuming that you will cover the relevant skills so they know what to practice, I’d suggest an exercise that combines content and process. For example:
    In pairs: listener and talker. Talker has to describe what they want from a holiday but without mentioning a destination. Listener has to practice active listening skills – listening attentively to what is being said and what is not quite being said, and demonstrating their listening to the talker by their behaviour. After 3-4 mins the listener has to summarise the 3 or 4 main issues or criteria that they have heard the talker express and then make a tentative sale of a suitable destination. Then 1 min to review how close the listener was to what the talker said and needed. Plus 1 min to review how well they demonstrated active listening behaviours. Then swap roles and repeat. Then plenary review pulling out key learning points. If you can substitute a work-related equivalent to replace the holiday scenario, and allow just a little more time than the minimums I have suggested, then so much the better.
    That is about as short as I can get with anything meaningful. And even then it implies that you are doing more before and after the exercise.
    Hope this helps

  4. Active Listening….
    something I recently used with great succcess for getting the message across about Active Listening is below:-
    * Group split into pairs, A & B
    * Take B’s out of the room and ask to wait outside
    * Inform the A’s that whilst they are listening to their partner, everytime their partner says something that evokes their “inner voice” i.e. they want to ask a question, makes them think about something etc… they put their hand up for 5 seconds then put it back down.
    * Ask them to do this for the entire conversation – A’s are not allowed to interact with B’s, ask questions, affirm understanding etc.. A’s remain silent, just raising their hand everytime their inner voice kicks in
    * Next inform the B’s outside that they are to speak to A’s about something of interest, an experience, their last holiday anything positive that has happened to them in the last 6 months. They have 3 minutes to talk.
    * Ask B’s back into the room, then allow 3 minutes of talking from B’s
    * At the end of the 3 minutes ask the B’s how they felt whilst talking to A, emotions evoked etc… General answers back are normally “didn’t feel listened too, didn’t understand why they were putting their hand up, lost my train of thought becuase they obviously weren’t listening” etc..

    You can also ask the A’s to not only raise their hand, but also lose focus, i.e. start staring out the window, become transfixed with the detail on their partner’s jacket, etc… another obvious distraction to their listening.

    It’s a great simple, quick exercise to run, and then to talk with the group about the power of active listening aterwards

    You can run the exercise again, this time allowing the A’s to interact, ask questions, become involved in the conversation etc… and compare the two conversations, which was more satisfying etc…

    Good luck

  5. Active Listening Skills

    After asking the group to do an exercise as recommended (A & B) I do this which brings out the importance of listening.

    I ask all the members to write the names of three people whom they cosider as good listeners. I personally check with each participant if they have written three names ( Some find it difficult).
    Then I ask the group if anyone has written the name of the person whom they don’t like. Usually nobody writes the name of the person whom they don’t like.

    Then I ask if the three people they have written, come in the in any one of these categories- liked by them, loved by them or respected by them. The response normally is yes.

    Now I ask them, if they are to be liked or loved or respected by others, how should they be?

    They see the point that they need to be good listeners if they are to be liked, loved or respected by others.

    I have used this in many programs and people love it.


    K.Shankar Ram

    PS: Even if someone writes the name of the person whom they don’t like, that person will come in the group of people respected by the participant.

  6. round robin exercise
    Following is an exercise I use with staff:
    Delegates are given a topic to discuss. At various points the trainer says stop, at which point the next delegate in line must continue the last delegates sentence starting with their last few words. Once the group gets the hang of this, instead of following the same pattern (1 to 2 to 3 to 4 to 1 etc) the trainer names who has to continue next part of the statement, forcing all delegates to listen closely to what everyone is saying instead of just the person before them.
    Though some of the delegates may not like this exercise, I feel that its a good one, as it tests product knowledge while also promoting active listening. Initially all groups started somewhat shakily, but with the exception of one person everyone picked up the idea quickly and were able to do the task, and a marked improvement in responses and flow was seen as the exercise went on. As a group exercise it can be fun, and even competitive, and after a good smoothly completed topic there was an obvious sense of achievement and satisfaction.

  7. Are they really listening?
    We’ve a great feature on site that may help anyone looking at this thread.

    Are they really listening? Dawn Smith says ‘lend me your ears’ as she examines what can be done in the training room to encourage delegates to listen more effectively.

    To read it, follow this link:

    Kind regards

    Susie Finch, Editor, features


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