Active Listening Dyads: Is What I Heard What You Said Exercise

Brief Description/Purpose

Simple exercises done in pairs (dyads) for practicing active listening, getting feedback on listening skills, and can also be used as an introduction type icebreaker.


Icebreaker, Pairs exercise

Age Appropriate

Teens, Adults, Older Children

Ideal Group Size

Any size, since exercise is done in pairs.

Time For Exercise

Short, less than 15 minutes, suitable for icebreaker


Communication, Listening. Team Building

Detailed Instructions If Needed

Pair up participants. One is the speaker, the other the listener. The speaker will be given a topic to speak about, usually about themselves, if used as an icebreaker. Speaker should speak for no less than two minutes, so it's good if the group leader gives a start and start signal.

Then reverse the roles, and repeat.

Then each person explains to the other what they "heard" him or her say. The speaker provides feedback on whether what was heard was what was meant.

Debrief in the entire group about how well they did, what was hard, what went well, and draw some conclusions as fits your content.

Additional Information if Available

Tons of variations possible here. You can instruct participants to talk about a specific subject, for example, how they are FEELING about being at the session, or something more factual. Change the length of time for the exercise to show how memory starts to fail when its overwhelmed by information and distortion sets in.

A great exercise for team building, communication training, even customer service as a way to kick off the session (icebreaker) since it is both a way to introduce people to each other, and to discuss listening.