16 Active Listening Activities for the Workplace

By: | Updated: February 13, 2024

You found our list of the best active listening activities.

Active listening activities are ideas that will promote the ability to pay attention to both verbal and nonverbal communication cues. Examples include Omit the Obvious, Train of Words, and Blindfold Walk. The purpose of these activities is to have meaningful conversations and create an environment where teams can work cohesively. These ideas can also help participants develop effective communication skills.

These activities are similar to communication games, conflict resolution activities, connection activities and are ways of improving team cooperation. You can also check out networking tips.


This list includes:

  • active listening activities for adults
  • active listening exercises
  • active listening games
  • virtual active listening activities

Let’s get to it!

List of active listening activities

Active listening is an essential skill in both personal and professional relationships. Luckily, we have a variety of fun and interactive activities that foster active listening. From Spot the Mistake to the Paraphrase Challenge, here is a list of the best exercises to improve active listening skills.

1. Mime It Out

The Mime It Out activity is a great choice of active listening activities for adults.


  1. Give each participant a topic and up to three minutes to brainstorm.
  2. Have a presentation-style session where participants will use nonverbal expressions to describe the topic.
  3. ​Other team members will figure out the subject based on nonverbal cues.

​The Mime It Out activity will help individuals get tips on using body language and expressions, as well as improve possible areas of misunderstanding when using nonverbal communication cues.

2. Sound Recognition

Sound Recognition is a lighthearted active listening idea that will have participants laughing. You could play the sounds for three seconds and let participants guess the source. Some great sites for these sounds are platforms like Freesound or SoundBible. However, you can make the activity more fun and interactive by asking players to mimic diverse sounds. Other team members will then guess the source of the sounds. One great idea that teams will enjoy is animal sounds. Additional ideas include musical instruments, celebrities, songs, or equipment. The Sound Recognition game requires impeccable listening skills.

Check out Freesound or SoundBible.

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3. Omit the Obvious

If you are looking for virtual active listening activities, then Omit the Obvious is an exciting pick.


  1. Choose a topic familiar to all participants.
  2. Meet on an online collaborative platform.
  3. ​Read out a list of words and omit one word. For instance, you could list Venus, Earth, Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury, Neptune, and Uranus. You could even repeat one word, like Saturn.
  4. ​Take up to five minutes to discuss an unrelated topic, such as worldwide cuisine.
  5. ​Give participants up to ten seconds to name the missing item among the list of words.

​With these being the eight planets, participants should identify the missing item, Mars. The Omit the Obvious activity will teach participants the importance of active listening and reinforce memory. You could carry out this activity before a presentation or during a work break.

4. The Paraphrase Challenge

The Paraphrase Challenge is a fantastic activity where participants can test their listening skills. If you have a large team, then you can carry out the challenge in small groups.


  1. ​Ask for about ten volunteers, especially if you are working with limited time.
  2. ​Give each participant up to four minutes to talk about a random topic they are passionate about.
  3. ​Let other individuals listen and paraphrase the statement.
  4. ​The speaker can then clarify and correct the audience.

​The Paraphrase Challenge is a good way to reinforce active listening skills, especially the art of not interrupting speakers.

5. The Absent-Minded Game

If you want to teach your team the effects of absent-mindedness, then you cannot go wrong with the Absent-Minded Game.


  1. Select a great speaker from your team to present a topic that interests them.
  2. Encourage the speaker to use nonverbal cues like hand gestures and expressions.
  3. Instruct the audience to engage in negative listening cues. For instance, participants could be fidgety, use poor body posture, yawn, or constantly look at their watches.
  4. Let the audience take note of the changes in the speaker’s body language and lack of motivation.

The Absent-Minded Game will show the importance of positive body language.

6. Intentional Contradiction

The Intentional Contradiction game is a great pick of active listening exercises for small and large groups.


  1. ​Let participants form a circle with a team leader at the center.
  2. ​The team leader will give two actions that participants must follow upon the mention of a specific item. Some good item examples are bananas and mangos.
  3. ​Upon the mention of the word banana, participants should put their right foot forward. When you mention mango, all participants should put their left foot forward. To instill listening skills, carry out the activity together and contradict the game rules. For instance, you can put your right foot forward when you call out mango.
  4. ​Participants who follow your physical cues exit the game.

​The Intentional Contradiction game is also a good icebreaker and can have participants laughing.

7. Differing Viewpoints

The art of intentional active listening starts with respecting other opinions and viewpoints. Thus, with the Differing Viewpoints activity, participants can learn to recognize different perspectives and remain respectful. For this activity, you can choose two conflicting items or topics. Even simple items such as tea vs. coffee or mountains vs. beach make great discussion starters. Then, let the groups discuss why their item choice is superior to the other option. You could even opt for challenging topics, such as politics.

Other ideas:

  • Pineapple belongs on pizza
  • Fruit counts as dessert
  • Cereal before milk
  • Spring or fall
  • Toilet paper over or under a roll
  • Aliens exist
  • The best pizza toppings
  • Books or movies

The Differing Viewpoints challenge will promote a habit of unbiased listening, respect, and patience, even when individuals have varying perspectives. The activity will also reinforce the importance of asking questions with the intent to understand without judgment.

8. Train of Words

The Train of Words idea is a great choice of active listening games. Start by requesting that participants form a circle. You can then give the first participant a topic to talk about or let them select their topic of interest. The first participant will whisper a sentence to the individual on the right until the circle is complete. In the end, participants may distort the meaning of the original statement. The Train of Words activity will help participants develop active listening and effective summary skills.

9. Background Noise Listening

The Background Noise listening activity is an excellent pick for large groups.


  1. ​Nominate up to eight players to be the noisemakers for groups of 15 to 20 participants.
  2. ​Nominate one speaker, and select a catchy topic for your team.
  3. ​Instruct the noise makers to start chattering once the speaker starts the session. The other participants will listen to the speaker and take notes on the topic. To make the activity more challenging, you could instruct listeners to close their eyes to avoid using the speaker’s virtual prompts.

​The Background Noise Listening idea can help test how participants can comprehend information in a noisy environment. The difficulties the audience experiences as they try to grasp information may also reinforce the importance of intentional listening.

10. Spot the Mistake

Spot the Mistake is an interesting active listening activity. You could have a storytelling session and prompt the speaker to talk about a common topic. However, the speaker will say a few wrong words, miss essential details, or tell a misleading part. Participants have to listen and pinpoint the mistake. You can make the Spot the Mistake activity more challenging by using small wrong details, such as a single word. For instance, if the speaker is talking about a renowned author, then you could include some wrong essential details, such as date of birth or book title. Feel free to play around with other topics, like company products, services, or leadership.

11. Blindfold Walk

If you are looking for active listening exercises that will also teach communication skills, then the Blindfold Walk is a great choice. You will need a large outdoor space. Then, let participants pair up and blindfold one individual in every team. The player without blindfolds will verbally lead their partner from one spot to another, ensuring they do run into obstacles. While you can make the activity more challenging by adding obstacles like chairs, ensure the space is safe to avoid injury. The challenge requires good listening skills from the blindfolded player and great communication skills from the partner.

12. Let’s Make a Story

Let’s Make a Story is a fantastic activity for a small group.


  1. ​Let participants form a circle.
  2. ​Select a team leader to record each statement.
  3. ​Let one volunteer start a story with a simple phrase. For instance, the first participant could say, “My favorite destination is Paris. I love the coffee and croissants.”
  4. ​Other participants will carry out the story one at a time. However, participants must give a statement related to the previous individual’s words.
  5. After the activity, let the team leader read out the story.

​The Let’s Make a Story activity will enhance listening and storytelling skills. The activity is also great for promoting participants’ thinking skills, creativity, and social interaction.

13. The Tossing Game

If you are looking for simple active listening games, then you cannot go wrong with the Tossing Game. For the activity, you need a soft, light object for tossing.


  1. ​Select the first participant, and instruct them to say a word while throwing the ball.
  2. The player who catches the object will say a word related to the original phrase. For instance, if the first player says tree, then it would be okay for the second participant to mention a flower, branch, tree bark, or bush. A wrong answer in this example would be items like a house, pen, or seashell.
  3. ​ Players who mention an unrelated word exit the game.

​The soft object will stimulate active listening and critical thinking skills even when under intense pressure.

14. The Drawing Challenge

The drawing challenge is a great idea that can improve participants’ listening skills. The idea is suitable for large or small groups. For small teams, you could carry out the drawing challenge by splitting participants into pairs.


  1. Let players sit with their backs facing each other.
  2. Give the first participant a simple drawing, and instruct them not to show their partner.
  3. The second participant has up to three minutes to ask questions about the picture. The first player must answer all questions correctly.
  4. The second participant can then attempt to draw a replica of the picture.
  5. After the activity, let both players compare the original picture and the drawing. You can then have a team session and let players discuss communication challenges during the activity.

For large groups, hand every participant a drawing paper and pen. Then, state items that teams will draw by listening. The trick is that the speaker only mentions an item once, and participants cannot ask questions or check in with each other.

​For a virtual option, let participants grab a pen and paper, then enable the video option on a platform like Zoom. Participants can then take pictures of the drawing and submit them to a group. You can either opt for simple items or complex ideas like animals. The activity will teach participants how to listen with the intent of understanding the art of asking the right questions.

15. The Interview

Suitable for both large and small groups, the Interview challenge is a fantastic way to enhance participants’ listening skills.


  1. Select at least five pairs of interviewers and interviewees, depending on how much time you have.
  2. ​Set up a stage where you will have an interview session.
  3. ​After the activity, have an interactive session and let participants pinpoint communication mistakes that both the interviewer and interviewees make during the session.

​For instance, the audience could point out negative nonverbal behavior between interviewers and  interviewees. Additional negative communication skills that the audience could look out for include having distractors like phones during the interview or interrupting each other.

Here is a list of interview questions.

16. Team Introductions

Team Introductions tops the list of simple virtual active listening activities. For this activity, let participants pair up and join a breakout room. Then, set the time and give participants up to two minutes to introduce themselves to their partners. Another good idea is letting participants talk about a topic they are passionate about. You can then select one player randomly and instruct them to introduce their partner to other participants. Players can also give a glimpse of their partner’s interests without missing vital details.


Active listening activities are lighthearted ways to bring teams together and teach communication skills. These activities are also an excellent way for adults to improve their listening skills and enhance their relationships. These activities range from role-playing scenarios to reflective listening exercises. Our list of active listening activities has diverse options, from simple to complex ideas suitable for breakout sessions. By incorporating active listening ideas into work interactions, you can help your team to become more effective communicators. However, if you want to maximize the effectiveness of these activities, then we advise that you carry out active listening activities often.

We also have a list of trust building activities, team building games, and icebreaker ideas.

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FAQ: Active listening activities

Here are answers to common questions about active listening activities.

What are active listening activities?

Active listening activities refer to exercises or games that can help improve the ability to listen attentively and effectively to what others are saying. These activities can help participants develop better listening skills, such as paying attention to nonverbal cues and avoiding distractions as others speak.

What are the best active listening activities for adults?

Listening attentively and understanding what others say are crucial in our professional and personal lives. Active listening activities can be a fun and interactive way to improve communication skills. Some of the best active listening activities suitable for adults include Mime It Out, the Absent-Minded Game, and the Tossing Game.

How do you improve active listening skills?

Active listening is a soft skill that can take time to develop. However, team leaders can use various activities to help participants practice and improve their active listening skills.

Here are some ways that participants can use to improve active listening skills:

  • Avoid interrupting speakers: It is the norm to want to jump into a conversation even before a speaker completes their statement. Avoiding interrupting speakers gives individuals time to elaborate on their ideas, promoting better understanding. One key tip that audiences can use is dedicating their energy and attention to the speaker and putting their thoughts into perspective.
  • Listen to understand, not to judge: While listening without making any judgments may feel impossible, the trick is to put your thoughts aside and focus on a better understanding of the speaker. Listening without judgment will prevent hasty reactions during another’s speech.
  • Focus on improving positive nonverbal behavior: Positive nonverbal behavior, such as gestures, facial expressions, and body language, can enhance conversations. You could focus on positive behaviors such as making eye contact, smiling, or nodding. Some negative nonverbal behavior to avoid include crossing your arms, multitasking, or fidgeting.
  • Maintain eye contact: Eye contact is a major factor that can improve conversations. Be sure to focus on looking at the speaker, even if they are not looking at you. Maintaining eye contact enables listeners to read the speaker’s emotions.
  • Ask questions: While asking questions is a great way to get clarification, wait for the speaker to pause before proceeding. For large gatherings, you could request the facilitator to have a Q&A session.
  • Avoid distractions: Eliminating distractions is an important step that can help improve active listening. For instance, having your phone on silent mode can enhance focus.
  • Provide feedback: Feedback enables the speaker to clarify any misunderstandings. You could provide feedback through statements or nonverbal cues. For instance, nodding is an effective way to show whether you agree or disagree with what the speaker says.

Regularly incorporating active listening ideas into your daily interactions can help teams develop communication skills.

Author avatar


People & Culture Director at teambuilding.com.
Grace is the Director of People & Culture at teambuilding.com. She studied Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, Information Science at East China Normal University and earned an MBA at Washington State University.


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