Activity: Back-To-Back Communications

The following is a training activity from Get Loud! Youth Engagement Workshop Guide by Adam Fletcher.

Back-to-Back Communications
Materials: Blank paper and pencils for half the group and slips of paper with simple drawings on them for the other half.
Space: Enough for people to work in pairs
Time: Approximately 30 minutes

1. Ask the group to divide into pairs. Ask the pairs to sit back to back and designate themselves Person A and Person B. Person A is given a slip of paper with a simple design (preferably abstract). Person A attempts to explain the design and instruct Person B in how to draw it. Person B may not talk! They have 10 minutes (variation: After 5 minutes, tell them that Person B may now talk). If time allows, have partners switch roles, shuffle a new design, and have them try again.

2. Most likely, the drawings will look nothing like they should, illustrating the importance—and the difficulty—of clear communication. This shows us clearly that what we think we are saying may not be what others hear. Reflect on this activity by asking:

  • What strategies for describing the picture seemed to work? Why? 
  • In what situations might those kinds of strategies also be useful?
  • How can you be clearer and more precise?

3. Explain that the clearer we are in our communication, the less likely we are to run into misunderstandings (and the anger and confusion that can accompany them).

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

Published by Adam

For almost two decades, Adam F. C. Fletcher has led international outreach focused on engaging people successfully. Working with thousands of youth-serving nonprofits, K-12 schools, government agencies, international NGOs and other organizations around the world, his work spans the fields of education, public health, economic development and social services, and includes professional development, public speaking, publishing, social media and more. He founded the Freechild Institute for Youth Engagement, SoundOut and CommonAction, as well as writing more than 50 publications and 500 articles. He has also established 150-plus community empowerment projects.

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