Strong interpersonal communication skills lay the groundwork for rich classroom dialogue and the ability to relate to others in all settings. Use activities to spark introspective thinking about the value of listening and relaying thoughts. As students become better communicators, they’re able to work more effectively in a team setting and articulate concerns when faced with conflict. Interpersonal communication exercises deftly underscore the importance of speaking, writing, listening and critical thinking.
Back to Back
Effective listening skills are critical to communicating effectively. This activity provides insight about the complexity of the communication process between two people. Pair up students, and have them sit back to back. Have one partner draw a picture of interlocking boxes or circles, and then describe that picture to the other student. That student should then draw a picture of what is described, but cannot ask questions during the process. Have students compare their drawings and discuss the challenges of completing the task. Ask the class to share how effective communication and listening affect a working relationship.
Try using a friendly contest to emphasize the importance of interpersonal communication skills and valuing all team members' contributions. Divide students into small groups and give them dry spaghetti noodles, gumdrops and toothpicks. Instruct them to work together to build the tallest tower they can with the supplies in 10 minutes. Tell half of each group they cannot speak during the activity. Start a discussion and ask the students to describe the building process, the affect of verbal and nonverbal communication and the importance of each group member during the activity.
Understanding gender differences can increase awareness and the ability to communicate more effectively. Divide students by gender and if possible have males and females begin the activity in two different rooms. Have each group create a list of stereotypes about the opposite gender. Next, have them analyze how those stereotypes may affect interpersonal communication. Instruct the groups to switch rooms so that they can read what was written by the opposite sex. Bring the class back together and ask them how they felt about what was written, facts and misconceptions and what could be done to improve communication based upon the written assumptions.
Developing strong interpersonal communication skills is critical to approaching and resolving conflict. Ask students to consider a time they were in conflict with someone. Have them write down what they did when they became angry, how they felt and how they responded to the other person. Create a scenario about conflict and ask the class to answer the same three questions about the parties involved. Put posters on the wall that list roadblocks to communication, and things that can escalate conflict. Ask the class to talk through the steps listed on the posters, and discuss how their ideas improved interpersonal communication.
Dr. Kelly Meier earned her doctorate from Minnesota State Mankato in Educational Leadership. She is the author and co-author of 12 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education. Dr. Meier is is a regular contributor for The Equity Network and has worked in education for more than 30 years. She has numerous publications with Talico, Inc., DynaTEAM Consulting, Inc. and Kinect Education Group.