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Icebreakers For Communication Classes

Source: EMPATHY No. 303-7
From: "Charles A. Silver"
Organization: Scottsdale Community College
Subject: Re: Ice breakers/openers for communication classes

I use a few "one minute exercises" that Jerry Buley at ASU shared with me. first, have the class pair off with another person....that they do not know....then they engage in five exercise for one minute each (some have two turns).

  1. first exercise is to have them face each other and communicate absolutely nothing for a minute........ i don't make them wait a whole minute, it is absolutely painful for them.....usually 40 seconds is enough to make them squirm...and we then discuss how they felt, if they actually could communicate nothing etc...
  2. the second exercise is to have them face each person is person A, and they are to be bright, charming, full of energy, and talk about whatever they want to for one minute. Person B is to ignore person A for one minute......then I have them switch roles....after they have both taken a turn, we debrief what it feels like to be ignored, or to be the ignorer....discussing social politeness etc....
  3. the third exercise utilizes the same format as #2----person A is bright charming etc... but now person B is going to interrupt person A as frequently as possible, and try to change the subject as frequently as possible....switch roles, and then debrief....was it hard to carry on a conversation when you were being interrupted, how did you feel, did you find yourself following the other person instead of doing the talking, did the interrupter feel etc.....
  4. the fourth exercise is the same format, but now person A will be bright charming etc...., but person B is going to be an attentive listener, they should hang on person A's every word, they should be excited when A is excited, serious when A is serious etc..... then switch roles.....they like this one the best so far, discuss comfort, how it felt to be listened too, and how it felt to listen
  5. finally, the last one minute exercise, they should both be bright charming etc...and talk about whatever they want to talk about when they are speaking, but when they are listening, they should be attentive listeners....I let this exercise go for two minutes usually.....debrief how they felt...usually they say this is the least contrived, most fun, and most natural...even though they often say it is still not natural....I ask them one final comment....which exercise was the longest...overwhelmingly, they answer number one....even though it was 40 seconds vs. two minutes....we then discuss that, and also discuss how we meet people who interrupt ignore, are good and bad listeners, and that we in fact can do all of these behaviors ourselves..... it is a great icebreaker, and it captures their attention and leads to semester long discussions.... good luck cs