Active Listening Activities for Adults

Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

Active listening is a skill that can be learned and practiced, and is useful to adults of all ages. We can help adults learn active listening techniques through a series of engaging activities. Here are some examples.

Active Listening Activities for Adults

Active listening is where you listen to someone who is speaking, and respond in ways which allow you to understand each other better. It's also a way of showing that you are listening attentively. This skill is extremely useful, both for developing rapport between people, and for practical purposes: to improve negotiating skills, increase the amount of information you retain, and improve the productivity of teams. What follows is a number of active listening practice activities appropriate for adults.

Drawing Activities

One way to illustrate how difficult it is to truly listen to every detail actively, is to complete a drawing activity. This is where a narrator gives each person in the class instructions for how to draw a particular thing, whether an object, room, or cartoon character. Students must hide the drawings from each other initially. Once they're done, students can compare the drawings, and see how incredibly different their interpretations were. Everyone had the same words, but the results were totally different. This is why it is important to ask questions, and clarify things.

There are other activities that achieve similar results. For example, you could have students draw a scene that they read in a novel. You could even have students play a game of whispers, where messages are passed from person to person, and the initial and final messages are compared.

Active Listening Skits

Active listening is mostly about practice, but it's also about employing particular techniques that expert active listeners use. These techniques include brief encouragements (saying things like ''oh'' and ''I see''), paraphrasing what people said back to them, labeling emotions (telling them what emotions you're sensing from what they're saying), mirroring (repeating things back to them for confirmation), expressing your feelings in response to what they're saying, and providing open-ended questions to keep them talking.

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