Jan Evers
  This is the last in a series of four lessons in a unit on Communicating at Work. The lessons are: (1) Communicating at work: Five basic human needs (2) Communicating at work: Building a successful team (3) Communicating at work: Listening strategies and skills (4) Communicating at work: Facilitating good communication

  Interpersonal relationships Job skills Work environment

Learner Level:

Time Frame:
  1 - 2 hours

Learner Grouping:
  Whole Group

  This activity was developed as a spin off from PROJECT BRAVO, which is used with parents and schools to learn conflict resolution skills that help build resilient people. This particular lesson was field tested with Summer VISTA Volunteers.


  OVEC Family Literacy

Type of Program:
  Basic Skills

Student Population Served:

Communicating at work: Facilitating good communication

Workers use role play to become more aware of the need for good communication skills. After such skills are modeled by the teacher in the course of the lesson and workers have a chance to discuss them, workers plan how they will try to practice the skills on the job. __________________________________________________________

Learning Objective:
Participants will gain an awareness of how good communication skills facilitate communication.

Primary Skill:

Secondary Skills:
Interpersonal, Cooperate with others

Learner Needs & Goals:
Workers in any job setting need to improve their oral communication skills. Empathy among workers affects how well each person communicates. Participants will learn that what they say is very important in being able to work effectively with others in the workplace or classroom. This will help productivity in the workplace or classroom and help the participants move closer to resolving conflict with others.

Learning Activity Description:
Note: The following good communication skills are the content of this lesson and encourage others to more openly express themselves. During this lesson especially, the instructor should model as many of these Good Communication Skills as applicable. Then after the skills have been presented to the class as content, the instructor will be able to remind the students of immediate past instances where the students saw these communication skills used and encourage students to use the same skills in future class and on-the-job communication.


  • Acknowledge others communicating with you verbally and non verbally.
  • Rephrase thoughts. It is often good to rephrase and repeat what is being said to you back to those who are speaking. This insures not only that you understood what they said but more importantly what they meant.
  • Give examples. Using examples or personal experiences is a helpful way to communicate your ideas.
  • Use good diction. Speaking clearly and distinctly is extremely important. People may miss your point if you are hard to understand.
  • Maintain a positive attitude. You can communicate with a positive attitude whenever you speak. People will be more interested in what you say if you are using a positive sentence structure too.
  • Listen actively. Listening is the key in developing any type of relationship.
  • Interpret. Read between the lines of what is being said. Some people have a hard time expressing themselves. You can help them by trying to interpret what they mean.
  • Share. Sharing your ideas is a personal effort to relate to others.
  • Build trust. You need to build a bond of trust between you and the others in the conversation. Make them feel more at ease and they will be more likely to exchange ideas.
  • Make a connection. True communication requires a connection between the parties to a conversation. Try to build a connection. Find a common ground or common interest to open the way to a good conversation.

(1) Participants define empathy and communication and discuss how the two influence each other. Instructor makes sure that participants understand the difference between sympathy and empathy. Empathy includes "the quality or process of entering fully, through imagination, into another's feelings or motives." In the fullest sense, empathy implies putting yourself into the other person's shoes or even getting into his or her skin so that you really understand and feel his pain, fear, or, more positively, his joys. The opposite of empathy would be (in communication terms) invalidation: when someone presents an idea or feeling and it is rejected or contradicted. Feelings of anxiety, sorrow, fear or the like will occur and it could be very painful for the person.

(2) Role-playing activity: Class members (use about six role-players) are employees at a staff or team meeting. Half of the "staff" (3 members) are assigned to be "nay-sayers" and the other half are "encouragers." The instructor plays the role of a new employee and the role-players are the remainder of the staff during the meeting. One possibility for the role-play is that the situation is played twice, once with only the "nay-sayers" and the new employee and the second time with only the "encouragers" and the new employee. The other possibility is that both camps of employees are in with the new employee at the same staff meeting, and the situation is played out once with both camps of employees present.

The situation is that the new employee has been quiet over the past couple of weeks, but today she speaks up and has a suggestion to help increase productivity. It is not a realistic idea and the outcome varies:

The "nay-sayer" colleagues express how the idea would never work. Some say why it would not work and some even snicker at the very thought. One person may even say how dumb of an idea that was. "She must be new."

The empathetic "encouragers" acknowledge the idea by nodding heads and making comments such as: "Yes, that might increase productivity. And here's another idea." No one puts down the idea or makes her feel stupid. Instead they try to build on what she has said. As they sit and brainstorm, perhaps, as a team, they can come up with an even better solution.

(3) Debrief the role-playing with the class discussing which group of people they would rather be working with. (The instructor facilitates the discussion modeling the Good Communication Skills.) Note the participants' comments on a flip chart.

(4) Present the Good Communication Skills listed above as the content of the lesson. Students should be able to see a copy of the skills either as a handout or on a flipchart or overhead projector. Relate the previous discussion of the role play with the Good Communication Skills, pointing out any examples of these skills being used by the participants in the role play or by the instructor or class members in their discussion following the role play.

Materials and Resources:

  • Flipchart, overhead projector, or chalkboard
  • Pencils and paper
  • A good additional resource for the instructor (which could also be used with the class) would be the KET Workplace Essential Skills video, Part II: Communicating At Work: Speaking Skills. It is a part of a PBS LiteracyLink project available through KET, The Kentucky Network - Enterprise Division, 560 Cooper Drive, Lexington, KY 40502-2200, phone (800) 354-9067.


Class members will be invited to practice the Good Communication Skills as the class discusses how they might also apply them to work situations in the coming week. At the next class period, the class will discuss opportunities they had during the week to practice these skills and their reactions to how successful they were in using the skills as well as how the skills facilitated communication.

This lesson was well received when field tested with the VISTA Americorp Summer Volunteers.


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