Last updated June 19, 2024

This training activity is useful if you are providing workplace training for employees and managers on non-verbal communication skills and body language. The activity helps participants to begin to understand the different roles that people play and that are involved in nonverbal communication.

Decoding emotions and communication skills


I recommend allowing 25 minutes for this activity.

You can easily adapt it though to be 20 minutes or 30 minutes in length as needed.

Number of Participants

Ask participants to form groups of 4.

If you have an odd number of participants then you can also have a group of 5 as needed.

Getting Started with the Activity

Ask the participants (employees you are training) to assign a role to each person in their group, so that each person covers a different role.

There are four roles to be assigned and these are the:

  • speaker
  • face decoder
  • body decoder
  • and the speech decoder

The Speaker Role

This person will select one emotion and talk about a time when they experienced this emotion quite strongly, trying to express this emotion nonverbally as they talk.

They must not mention the emotion they have chosen, as the others will have to guess it.

So, they will explain what happened, but not how the situation made them feel.

For example, if their friends organized a surprise party for them, they would not say, ‘I opened the door and I was surprised to see everyone there!’.

Instead, they will say something along the lines of, ‘I opened the door, and all my friends were there! It was incredible!’

Note to the trainer: Recommend to the participants that they should choose an emotion and a story that they are comfortable talking about.

They should avoid anything traumatic or too stressful for them.

The Face Decoder Role

Their role is to carefully observe the speaker’s facial movements and try to decode the emotion through the expression of the face.

For example, were the upper eyelids lifted in surprise?

Did the jaw drop?

They will also need to write down notes on what they see.

The Body Decoder Role

Their role is to carefully observe the speaker’s body movements and try to decode the emotion being spoken about.

For example, what was the speaker’s posture like?

Were they gesturing with their arms?

They will also need to write down notes on what they see.

The Speech Decoder Role

Their role is to carefully listen to the sound of the speaker’s voice and try to decode the emotion being spoken.

The most important thing they will need to focus on is the actual sound of the voice, such as volume, pitch, emphasis on words, etc.

They will also need to write down notes on what they see.

Start the Conversation

Give participants 5 minutes to assign the roles and for the speaker to decide what they will be talking about.

Then, start the conversation and give them 5 minutes for the speaker to tell their story.

At the end of the speech, give participants 10 minutes to share feedback within their groups.

Each decoder will share their observations with the others to try and guess the speaker’s emotion.

End of Activity Class Discussion

At the end of the activity, allocate 5 minutes to share each group’s experience with the whole of the class.

Some questions you can ask your participants to facilitate the whole class discussion are:

  • What did you find challenging?
  • What was easy?
  • What did you learn?

If You are Teaching Online

If teaching online and holding this activity online, you can use breakout rooms to separate participants into groups.

Participants can write down their ideas by using an online whiteboard, a chat, or an online tool, such as Lino or Padlet.

Once the group activity is over, bring the participants back to the main room for the whole class discussion.]

Body language and non-verbal communication training materials for teachers
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Dr Valeria Lo Iacono
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