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Games for Effective Communication

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Communication skills are important regardless of what you choose to do with your life. Effective communication skills often correlate with personal success, whether you're hosting an international business meeting or simply interacting with family. Communication games can hone your skills whether you're trying to improve poor skills or keep excellent ones up to par.

Building Blocks

This game develops descriptive and instructional skills as well as teamwork. The game works best with small groups--a minimum of three people, up to six or seven--and requires two identical sets of building blocks.

Four roles are involved: director, runner, builder and observer. One person is the director, one the runner and one the builder. Everybody else is the observer, but if the group has only three people, all share the observer role.

Put the director and builder on opposite sides of the room, with their backs to each other, each with their own set of building blocks. You, as the facilitator, are to build something with the director’s blocks. The director must then give instructions to the runner, who must relay those instructions to the builder in an attempt to have the builder create an exact replica of the director’s blocks. Limit the activity to 10 minutes, then compare the builder’s construction with the director’s. Have the group reflect on the exercise. Take feedback from all four roles, then run the exercise again--make sure to create a new original model for the director--to see how the team improves.

Phrase Ball

The goal in phrase ball is to encourage rapid-fire thought and communication to help prepare for the moments when you might be put on the spot and have to speak without preparation. Organize your group--you need at least five--into a circle. In the first round, group members take turns throwing the “phrase ball”--a small, soft ball--back and forth. As each member catches the ball, he must say a simple descriptive phrase, such as “the friendly kitty” or “the funny movie.”

When everybody is comfortable with creating phrases on the fly, change the game slightly for the second round. The person who holds the ball must start a phrase--"the happy puppy,” for example--then throw the ball to the next person, who must finish the phrase--"barked with excitement”--and start a new phrase. Game play continues until everybody seems comfortable speaking extemporaneously. At that point, stop the game to discuss the activity: how each participant's feelings changed throughout the game and which round was easier.

Get It Together

This game builds your team's descriptive, listening and voice-recognition skills and helps develop trust amid confusion. Divide your group into pairs. One person in each pair should be blindfolded. It is the job of the blindfolded person to retrieve specific items from the center of the circle based on the cues given by his partner. This exercise seems simple enough when it starts, but it becomes more complicated as more blindfolded people enter the circle and begin trying to find items. At the end, discuss the methods people used to tune out others' noise and confusion and focus on working as a team.

Bull Ring

Bull ring is a physical challenge that reinforces effective communication and teamwork. Tie several pieces of string or twine--one for each member of the group--to a 1.5-inch metal ring.

The group’s mission is to carry a ball, such as a tennis ball or softball, through, over and around a series of obstacles and place the ball on a goal--perhaps a water bottle or a piece of pipe. If the team drops the ball, it must start again from the beginning. When the team has reached its goal, discuss the challenges, what team members learned and how people took the lead.


Katie Strzeszewski has been writing professionally since 2003 and holds a Bachelor of Arts in professional writing and English secondary education from York College of Pennsylvania. Strzeszewski spent two years performing computer repair for Geek Squad, currently works for men's clothier Paul Fredrick and is also a competitive West Coast Swing and Hustle dancer.

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