Communication Styles Skits Activity

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Host Family Evaluations consistently confirm that the majority of host parents believe that the key to a successful hosting experience is keeping the lines of communication between all family members open. Many of these host parents were also surprised to discover that the amount of misunderstandings and miscommunication that occur between them does not necessarily decrease when the participant's English language skills improve. The goal of this activity is to demonstrate why cross-cultural communication can be such a tricky process, even when speaking the same language, and to provide host family members and participants with some tools and information that will help facilitate effective communication.

Phase Post-Arrival
Audience: Host Family, Participants
Focus: Culture Learning
Also covers: NA
Time: 75 minutes
Preparation/Materials: Some
Group size: 10 or more


By the end of this session participants will be able to:

  • identify one or more cultural differences they have observed between themselves and their participant (communication style);
  • demonstrate one or more methods of culture learning (effective communication).


activity (see Part II of Instructions)



Part I - 15 minutes

  1. Distribute to participants the Communication Styles Handout which contains a description of 6 sets of contrasting communication styles and tips for communicating with individuals who tend to use each style.
  2. Divide the group into groups of 2-4 people (make sure to mix parents and participants and avoid grouping family members together) and assign each group 1-2 sets of contrasting communication styles to review and discuss per the questions on page two of the Communication Styles Handout. (More than one group may discuss the same set) Ask them to take notes on their discussion and be prepared to share some of their thoughts with the group.
  3. Allow 15 minutes for the small group discussion.
  4. Reconvene the group. In the remaining 15 minutes, ask for volunteers to share one or two observations from their discussion per set. Record answers on a flip chart. Don't worry if it feels like you haven't thoroughly covered each style as the discussion following the skits will allow you to address them again. Alert the attendees to this as well.

Part II - 45 Minutes
This part of the activity can be conducted in a number of ways depending on your group size, time available and other factors. Some options follow but feel free to develop an alternative method that works well for your group. You may also choose not to conduct all skits, but we highly recommend doing at least two of them.

Option A
Prior to the orientation enlist several actors (returnees, volunteers, group leaders) who will practice and act out all of the skits. Conduct and discuss the skits in the large group according to the Communication Styles Skits Discussion Guide. This option will take the least amount of time since your actors will be assigned and prepared to perform ahead of time.

Option B
Ask for volunteers from the audience to enact each skit in succession. Allow them a couple of minutes to review the skit and assign roles. Conduct and discuss the skits in the large group according to the Communication Styles Skits Discussion Guide. This option allows for people with an interest in performing to "strut their stuff" and involves both youth and adults.

Option C
Divide the group into smaller groups (mixed adults and youths, avoid clumping family members) and assign each group a skit. Inform the groups that those who are not actors within each group will be asked to lead the group discussion using the Communication Styles Skits Discussion Guide, with your help, after the skit. If there are as many actors as group members, facilitate the discussion yourself. This option allows for people with an interest in performing to "strut their stuff." It also involves both adults and youths and gives all group members a chance to actively participate.


After all skits have been done and discussed, summarize by asking for tips on effective cross-cultural communication. Record on a flip chart.
Some possible answers:

  • Regularly check for understanding by asking your communication partner to paraphrase what you have said.
  • Keep in mind that intent does not always equal impact--assume good intentions.
  • Slow down the "knee jerk" reaction - if something really irritates you, stop and think, this may be a cultural misunderstanding and take the time to figure out what is really going on.
  • To avoid molehills turning into mountains, address small concerns as they occur and in appropriate settings. In private and in a calm manner.
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