Exercises to try #3 – Listen, Check, Summarise

Building on the ABC exercise that we gave you last week. We proudly present ‘Listen, Check, Summarise’. If anyone would like to suggest a sexier name for this, please send your suggestions to George: georgina@purplemonster.co.uk

This is another thoughtful, considered exercise which works well with people who are responsible for managing others. But also, great for teams to try together, again developing trusting relationships and empathy amongst colleagues.

We make it a little complicated, just for fun really!

The aim of the game

The aim is to develop greater listening skills and be able to communicate what you’ve heard accurately.

How often do we mis-read emails, text messages or misunderstand someone’s tone?


The set up

It will take about 5 mins to set up, and a maximum of 10 minutes to run.
Ask the group to split themselves into smaller groups of 4.

Each team member names themselves, A, B, C and D.

Ask A to face B, and C to face D. It should look like they are facing each other as if on a train in a seat of four. 2 couples facing each other.


How to run the exercise

Ask everyone to think of a customer interaction that has gone wrong…’think of a time when you had a bad experience as a customer and tell your partner.’

Round 1

It’s up to you, but let’s say you give everyone 2 minutes each to tell the person opposite their story.

So, once you’ve heard your partners story. You need to ‘check’ you’ve heard it correctly. Ask your partner if you’ve got the main points correct. Then once confirmed, ‘summarise’ your partners story back to them.

Now swap over. Repeat the listen, check, summarise as per the second part of the diagram on Round 1.

Round 2

Turn to the person at the side of you and share the story you just heard. NB, this is not your own story, but the one your partner just shared with you.

See part 1 on the diagram. So, A tells C and B tells D. Listen, check and summarise.
Then swap over, part 2 so C tells A, and D tells B.

Finally, Round 3

This is the best bit! You now ask the teams to work diagonally across each other, by all means ask people to swap chairs if they need to!

So, A tells D the story they just heard in Round 2 (which will be their own story 😊)
B tells C. Listen check summarise.

Then C tells B and D tells A. Listen check summarise.

There may be laughter and excited chatter when running this exercise. Others will take it incredibly seriously. After all, you are responsible for someone else’s words.

Top Tip…

There are 4 stories, each team member will hear 2 different stories and finally their own story played back to them.


  • Ask the group about the exercise. How hard was it to concentrate on listening to begin with?
  • Did that change when you were telling someone else’s story.
  • Were you distracted trying to listen or correct details in what you were hearing elsewhere?
  • How did the story change? Were there details left out?
  • Were there things embellished?
  • What does this say about the nature of communication?
  • Ask people for their insights and get them to share with the big group!

You could run this exercise with a small team at the start of a meeting, or you could use the mechanism with perhaps a different question at a much bigger event to get the room to buzz with the fun of sharing stories.

Download a pdf workshop sheet of our Listen, Check Summarise exercise.

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