Developing effective communication

No-one listens to me,”

Nobody ever tells me anything”.

These are some of the most common expressions of frustration we come across in life, not least in the workplace. The art of communication is something we need to constantly work on. But as communication is a two-way process, it’s not something we can easily learn in isolation. It’s a practical skill, so to get better, practical experience is essential.

MTa’s communication activities are designed to go beyond communication theory and develop a wide range of communication skills through experiential learning. These versatile training kits allow you to run dozens of different activities, challenges and games that can be specifically tailored to real situations so people see and feel the challenges first-hand.

A two-way process

Using hands-on kits, participants get to work on communication development and learn more about their own communication styles. To be a good communicator, you have to understand what lies behind effective communication and know your own limitations and short-comings. But first of all you need to understand why good, clear communication is so important, and how getting it wrong can have damaging and long-lasting effects.

To be a great communicator, you need to also know what helps you communicate. And what hinders you.

You need to understand that communication is a two-way process. It’s not just about what you say, but how you say it and how it’s understood by the other party. It’s also about listening, checking for understanding and making sure you understand your audience. It’s about making sure people feel valued, listened to and understood, even when you don’t agree or you’re sharing bad news.

MTa gives you tools to explore your own communication style and the way you are perceived by others.

MTa Team Kit – focus on communication

Communication is an important learning aspect of all MTa activities, but three kits in particular, MTa Team Kit, MTa Mini and MTa Insights boast several activities that have a real focus on communication.

Take an activity like the Frame from  MTa Team Kit. Here two groups work on different parts of the same project. One group are instructors who have very precise information about the task. A second group, constructors, need that information to be able to complete the task. The problem is there are both real and perceived constraints to communication: the two teams are briefed separately and work in different rooms; the instructors aren’t allowed to share their plans and diagrams; and communication is restricted and totally prohibited at certain times.

This activity promotes learning about understanding objectives, asking appropriate questions, trust (between the two teams), taking responsibility, overcoming barriers, and the challenges of physical isolation.

This is one of 16 activities in the MTa Team Kit with other activities that focus on different aspects of communication. They promote an open and honest exchange of views and ideas, but also explore those things we all do that can thwart communication. This can range from not opening our minds, withholding information for a raft of reasons, or simply not understanding or ignoring the message.

MTa Mini – it’s versatile, compact and portable

Another great activity is Carts and Horses from MTa Mini. This explores effective team-working within and between teams with a strong emphasis on communication and planning. Two or three teams work interdependently to identical briefs but in separate rooms. Each one creates a model and must persuade another team to make an exact replica of that model, while creating their own replica of the other team’s model.

There’s an element of competition in this activity but the key is collaboration, transfer of ideas, attention to detail and the impact of our actions on others, as well as the need to understand their needs. It’s one of nine versatile  table-top activities in the compact and portable MTa Mini Kit.

MTa Insight – powerful learning results

Finally, MTa Insights features seven activities focused on communication, all of which are easy to set up and come tightly packed in portable holdalls, but with powerful learning results. They focus on two-way communication, the importance of people being ready, and will to receive information and some of the attitudes that hinder communication.

Although highly practical, MTa’s activities are underpinned by a robust theory. They let you delve deeper into concepts like  closed loop communication (where the sender checks the message by getting the receiver to repeat it back), and active listening (where you listen to the whole message and pay special attention to body language.)

All activities vary in style and complexity from short and relatively simple ice-breakers to longer and highly complex activities that explore a lot of the deeper emotion behind communication.

Reflect on your reality

Every kit includes insightful resources that help participants reflect on what happened in the activities, and to consider the skills, behaviours and attitudes that are necessary to succeed. In a well-facilitated exercise, it is this reflection that provides most of the learning. MTa call this the ‘Learning Arena’ where all participants are encouraged to:

  • Identify the positive, indifferent and negative aspects of the activity being reviewed
  • Build on positive aspects to make them even more valuable
  • Develop ideas to address indifferent and negative aspects
  • Evaluate and select ideas to be implemented
  • Explore, practice and refine ideas
  • Plan the  Learning Transfer: how will the learning experience lead to tangible improvements in day-to-day performance

Participants are encouraged to reflect and think for themselves and then share their perspectives with the group. To help that reflection, each leadership activity comes with learning review sheets that should be completed before group discussion. Download a sample learning review sheet here. 

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