Direct and clear communication can make a difference in how effectively your words impact others. Through a quick and simple art exercise, you can practice giving more clarity to your speech by immediately seeing the effect your words have on the actions of another person.
In this two-person challenge, you’ll attempt to give clear and effective instructions to your partner on how to replicate a drawing you’ve made. You’ll only need to have a paper and pen or pencil to complete this challenge.
Step 1: Make a Secret Drawing
Each person should draw a design using basic shapes and lines. The drawing should be complex, but should only take a few minutes to complete. You’ll want to keep this drawing a secret from your partner, so it might be a good idea to sit back to back or in different areas of the room as you draw.
Step 2: Teacher and Artist
Once each partner has created a drawing, come back to sit facing each other while keeping your drawings hidden. Choose one person to act in the role of the teacher first and the other person will act in the role of the artist. You’ll eventually switch roles, so each person will have the opportunity to do both.
As the teacher, you’ll now give verbal directions to your partner on how to create your drawing. You can’t show your image to your partner or use any hand or body motions to touch or point to any part of your partner’s paper. You may not answer any questions that the artist asks, but you can repeat your words if she didn’t hear what you said. Be as clear as possible with your instructions, but don’t worry if the artist’s drawing looks differently than your own.
As the teacher, your main priority as you speak is to notice what words help your partner to draw your image accurately and which words are confusing. Make a note of these words on your paper to the side of your drawing.
The artist will listen to the teacher and use her instructions to draw the design as precisely as possible. When you’re in the role of the artist, you may not ask the teacher any questions other than to repeat an instruction.
As the artist, pay attention while you’re listening to what words in the teacher’s directions are clear and what words are confusing. Also listen for words that motivate you to keep drawing and what words give you the opposite reaction, of wanting to give up. After you finish your drawing, write down the words you noticed on your sketch paper.
Step 3: Compare and Switch Roles
When the directions are complete and the artist has finished drawing, hold up both versions to compare what shapes and lines turned out the same and what’s different between the drawings. If the drawings are completely different from each other, discuss what could be changed in the directions to give them more clarity. If the drawings turn out pretty much the same, plan to use a much more complex image for the next round.
Switch roles. The new teacher should try to incorporate what she learned about giving instructions when she directs the artist to draw. The artist should try to incorporate listening skills she observed in the first round. Repeat the steps for creating a drawing based on verbal instructions.
Step 4: Reflection
When finished, reflect on the following questions in a journal or by discussing with your partner.
- What words or phrases were helpful in the directions?
- What words or phrases were confusing?
- What would you change in how you gave directions?
- What would you change in how you listened and followed directions?
- What phrases can you can use to support others when you’re in a challenging or confusing group situation?
- Brainstorm five tips to enhance clear communication and active listening.
By going through this exercise you can use art as a simple way to analyze your communication skills. Consider how, in the future, you’ll be able to put these skills into practice through clarity of instruction, active listening and positive encouragement. What tips do you have to create clear and effective communication?