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Make A Fist Listening Exercise - Assumptions

Brief Description/Purpose

An incredibly easy and short demonstration/exercise to get people talking about listening, and how we all make assumptions, Sohini Mazumder



Age Appropriate

Teens, Adults

Ideal Group Size

Any size. Works with very large groups.

Time For Exercise

Just about one minute to do the demonstration, then 5-10 minutes to discuss.


Communication, assumptions, active listening

Detailed Instructions If Needed

  • Ask for two volunteers to join you in front of the group.
  • Ask for one person to make a fist.
  • Tell the other person to open the fist of the other person.
  • What usually happens is that the person making the fist will resist the attempt to unclasp the fist, even though no instruction was given to resist.
  • If there is resistance, ask the person why s/he is resisting. Then indicate that you didn't provide that instruction, and that often we assume things that are not intended.
  • You can also discuss remedies -- how active listening would have prevented the misunderstanding.


Your volunteer may, in fact, not resist. If this happens, you have two options. Laugh, and make some comment about the situation, OR:

Ask for another pair of volunteers to join you, and repeat the exercise, OR, ask the first pair to reverse roles. When you do it a second time, it's more likely you'll get resistance as you would expect.