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Listening, Assumptions, Preconceptions Exercise

Brief Description/Purpose

This exercise focuses learners on how we tend to fill in the blanks when listening, and how our assumptions and preconceptions can cause us to get things completely wrong.


Group Exercise

Age Appropriate

Teens, Adults

Ideal Group Size

Any size

Time For Exercise

20 minutes


Listening, communication, preconceptions, conflict

Detailed Instructions If Needed


Choose an article or news story of about 500+ words. It shouldn't be too simple. 

Based on the article, compile about ten questions, some of which can be answered directly from the article (i.e. factual questions included), and some of which cannot directly be answered in the article but could be "assumed" or guessed Compile the questions into an answer sheet and make a copy for each participant but do not pass them out yet. Note that questions can be open ended, true/false or multiple choice.

Read out the story/article. 

Pass out the answer sheets and give a minute or two to complete.

Then go through the questions, indicating the right answers OR, if the answer wasn't stated in the actual story.

Ask questions like the following to debrief:

Why or how do you think some of you got quite different answers on some of the questions?

Were you even aware that some of the questions didn't address facts that were specifically stated in the story?

Why do you think many people fill in the blanks when they "listen"?

Other Points For Trainer To Make

Our brains are actually wired to complete things, or fill in the blanks to things making sense by making patterns.

Often the filling in the blanks reflects our OWN preconceptions and beliefs/biases so we can often get things wrong.

Final Discussion:

So what can we do when listening or trying to understand someone so we aren't being mislead by our own preconceptions/filling in the blanks.