If someone asked you how well you follow directions, what would your answer be? Now, if someone asked you how well you give directions – would your answer be the same? Very often what you mean to say and what is interpreted are two different things. Here are two activities that reinforce the importance of giving clear directions.
I used the following exercise with a group to focus on communication styles and following directions. I divided the group into small teams and each team member had a turn being the leader. The leader was given a simple picture to instruct others to draw. Leaders could not tell them what they were drawing, show them what the finished product should look like or use gestures. It was interesting to see the results.
Some leaders were very precise with their directions, “fold the paper in half lengthwise, open it up and then draw a horizontal line 1 inch long below the halfway crease.” Others were more descriptive – “draw two circles about the size of a quarter near the top of the page.” Some groups asked questions of the leader, while others kept silent. At the end, we compared the drawings to the originals and discussed what was learned about both giving and receiving directions.
Here are some of their insights:
Although not a traditional “following directions activity” – have you ever been to a ‘paint night’ where you go to a studio (with or without your favorite beverage!) and pretend to be Monet for the evening? For those non-artists like myself, it can be intimidating to transform a blank canvas and paint into the sample painting, yet it works surprisingly well. Why is this different from the activity above?
Think about these activities the next time you are asked to explain something or give directions. Allow yourself to pause and think through the process before beginning. Be as clear as possible, demonstrate if you can, and allow for clarifying questions. Be patient and ask for feedback – improving this skill can only lead to better communication in other areas.
Carolyn works hard to give good directions & communicate effectively – traits that serve her well as a mom, a spouse, a meeting planner, and facilitator. How can she help your group?