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Communication & Conflict: Exploring The Ambiguity of Words Exercise

Brief Description/Purpose

A great exercise to explore how ambiguous words are, and can be used in both conflict and communication seminars. It's fun too, and often results in a lot of laughter. Can be used in pairs, or as an exercise in front of the entire group.



Age Appropriate

Teens, Adults

Ideal Group Size

Can be used in pairs, OR as an exercise in front of the entire group.

Time For Exercise

15-30 minutes


Conflict, communication, language

Detailed Instructions If Needed

Version One - Pairs

Get the group in pairs. One person will be the "instructor", while the other will be the "artist".

You can distribute pictures or cards with drawing on them. Or if you want to make it simpler still, have, on each card a word representing a common object.


Do NOT show your partner what is on your card.

You have one minute to instruct your partner (the artist) on drawing what is on your card. The instructor may NOT use the name of the object or any synonyms.

Once you have done so, compare the artist's drawing to the original.

Version Two - Entire Group

Using this version is bound to cause all kinds of laughter and fun.

Ask for two volunteers who are willing to participate in front of the class.

Give the "artist" a card with a drawing, picture or word representing a common object. The instructor may NOT use the name of the object or any synonyms.

Ask the instructor to guide the artist in drawing the object on a flipchart in front of the class, step by step.

Of course, in both versions, the artist will draw something that only vaguely resembles the object.

You can repeat this with a few other pairs, to show that the difficulties will occur regardless of the people involved.


Key your debrief questions to the content of your course. The questions can be different for a course on communication compared to one on conflict. Here are some examples:

  • Were you surprised by what happened during the exercise?
  • What does this say about communication and misunderstanding?
  • Have you ever had a conflict that was based on making assumptions or difficulty in making clear what is being said?
  • What did you learn from this exercise?