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Exercise needed to demonstrate why telephone communication can fail.


I am putting together training on telephone communication skills (verbal and vocal qualities, questioning and listening, etc). To open the sessions, I want to run an involving exercise on why communication can fail over the 'phone. Can anyone help?
David Fowler

2 Responses

  1. some ideas
    Hi David

    Some exercises I have used to show how communication can go wrong include:

    Chinese Whispers – emphasises that if we don’t take notes, clarify and summarise we don’t get the correct message

    Listening exercise – ask the group to listen to the following words (they are not allowed to take notes:


    Then ask group to write down as many as they can remember – then ask “did everyone get sleep ok?”.

    This re-inforces the need to actively listen and not make assumptions.

    Passive listening:
    Split the group into 2 groups. Take 1 group outside the room and advise them that they are to go back in and tell their partner in the room a really interesting story about themselves.

    The other group are told to listen to the story and show all passive listening signs (verbal nods, questions, reflective listening etc)…..then half way through they are to completely switch off and remain totally silent.

    This works best when the chairs are back to back and emphasises how ignored and unimportant someone can feel when passive listening is not taking place.

    Thats some ideas that have worked well for me and are also quite good fun for the delegates.

    Good luck with your course,
    Barbara Leslie

  2. Get them to ring someone at your office who has been briefed
    Hi David

    Get them to ring someone back at your office who has been briefed to communicate in the 4 different communication styles – Driver, Expressive etc.

    They are allowed to preprepare 5 open questions during which they must get as much data on the person in the office as they can.

    They then have to decide what Communication style the person at the other end of the phone was.

    Do it with everyone observing: people will listen to the previous conversation and make assumptions about the style at the other end. When this switched it can really throw them, and they lose the ablility to think clearly.

    This exercise is very challenging – i use it to pull together the various aspects we have dealt with during the day, and it shows them that they need to practice the skills before they become habitual.

    Feel free to contact me on 01295 256161 or email: [email protected] to discuss further – as long as youre prepared to tell me what works for you!



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