5 active listening exercises to train this skill.
Several exercises to develop the skill of active listening in conversations.
We tend to take for granted that we know how to listen. We consider that just because we know how to speak, we also know how to listen and that conversations are mere information-sharing transactions.
Hearing implies receiving sound stimuli, but this does not mean that we understand or fully realize what our interlocutor is saying. Either because we are distracted or because we are thinking about other things, they may be saying things to us that simply do not come to mind.
Active listening involves not only hearing what is being said, but also understanding it, retaining it and following the thread of the conversation. This skill can be put into practice and, for this reason, we will now look at a few active listening exercises.
Is it possible to train active listening through activities?
Do you think you are a good listener? Let's see. Here are a few questions and we ask you to please answer them as honestly as possible. Think about when you are in a conversation with a friend or family member, a situation in which you have to listen to the other person.:
- Do you think about your response while the other person is still talking?
- Do you guess what he/she is going to say before he/she says it?
- Do you cut them off to give your point of view or to finish their sentences?
- Do you switch off or get distracted thinking about other topics?
- Do you react impulsively to certain words?
If you answered yes to more than three of these questions, then we highly recommend you read on.
We define active listening as the ability to listen to the message given to us by our sender, making a conscious and voluntary effort to pay attention, following the thread of the conversation and understanding deeply what he is saying.We must follow the thread of the conversation and understand in a profound way what he/she is telling us. It is not just a matter of hearing the words he is telling us, retaining them in our working memory, but understanding the whole message.
To put this skill into practice, it is necessary to focus our attention on the person with whom we are having a conversation, avoiding any distractions and avoiding trying to formulate counter-arguments while the other person is still speaking. It is not possible to understand everything he is telling us if we are distracted thinking about how we are going to reply to him, because if we do so we start to ignore part of the message he is trying to share with us.
To play the role of active listener requires a lot of concentration and determination.. This is complicated, but not impossible, because although breaking old habits is difficult and consciously working to avoid distractions is a real challenge, being able to pay maximum attention to those who are sharing their thoughts, emotions and opinions with us is perfectly achievable, as long as we put active listening into practice.
In general, we can say that the practice of active listening focuses on five aspects to take into consideration:
- Paying genuine attention
- Demonstrating that you are listening
- Providing feedback
- Not making value judgments while listening.
- Responding appropriately.
Active listening helps us to be better communicators. In addition, by listening better to what others are telling us, we create a better understanding of what they are saying, by listening better to what others tell us, we can create a more positive environment, avoiding misunderstandings. and reducing the possibility of uncomfortable situations such as, for example, having to repeat over and over again what has already been said.
No one likes it when, after you have given your speech, the person who was supposed to be listening to you has understood absolutely nothing of what you have said. Active listening is a sign of respect and appreciation.
Active listening exercises for better communication
Here are five active listening exercises that are ideal for improving this skill:
1. Visualizing a conversation.
The first one we present is individual. It may seem strange that there is an active listening exercise that can be done without anyone else, but the truth is that it is the best way to practice before you do it. is the best way to practice before being in a real interpersonal situation. in which we need to demonstrate good listening skills. This exercise is ideal to do a simulation of active listening.
Imagine you want to tell someone else how you spent yesterday (think about what you did and who you want to tell). Once you have decided on the topic and the person, move on. Now, imagine how you are telling them, what details you are dwelling on the most because you would like to emphasize them, what aspects you want to tell them in depth.
Let's say he/she has been attentive to what you were telling him/her during all this time, looking at you and smiling, making gestures according to the information you were telling him/her such as surprise at unexpected details or sadness at unfortunate data. He has given you all the time in the world so that you can explain in detail what you wanted to express.
Now let's imagine just the opposite situation. The person is very different, cutting you off every time you say three words and constantly interrupting you. He or she gives you advice without your asking for it, and even changes the subject and tells you his or her point of view.
How do you feel, and what kind of behavior would you prefer?
This is an exercise that, although solitary and mental, is very good for practicing empathy, what other people would feel if we did to them what happened to us in the second scenario.
2. The bus
The bus game is a classic activity used to break the ice in group homes or workshops for practicing emotions.. The slogan is simple, ask the attendees to listen carefully to the story you are going to tell them and, at the end, ask them a question:
"Imagine you are driving a bus. At first the bus is empty. At the first stop, five people get on. At the next stop, three people get off the bus and two get on (usually, upon hearing this phrase, attendees begin to do mathematical calculations of how many passengers are on the vehicle). Later, ten people get on and four get off. Finally, at the end of the line another five passengers get off."
The question is: What is the foot size of the bus driver?
When this question is asked, listeners are usually stumped, saying that it's impossible to know the answer.. If this is the case, the statement should be repeated again, as many times as the facilitator deems necessary until the participants come up with the answer, which they will only arrive at if they listen carefully to the exercise.
The answer is actually quite simple (and funny): "You are the bus driver, so you will know what your shoe size is".
3. The blind man
Another group activity that we can put into practice is the blind man's game. In this exercise the participants are divided into two teams, and each team chooses one person from among its members who will act as the "blind man"..
The activity consists of making the blind person, who will be blindfolded, go from one side of the room or the field where the exercise will take place trying to avoid a series of obstacles such as tables, chairs, mats... In order to avoid them without getting hurt or crashing, he/she will have to follow the instructions given by his/her teammates.
The facilitator will time how long it takes each team to get their blind person to the finish line, although this is not really the goal.This is not really the main objective of the activity. The main objective is to get the person playing the role of the blind person to practice active listening, paying close attention to what his or her teammates are saying without getting distracted.
4. Selective listening
Another very interesting exercise is that of selective listening. For this activity we are going to divide the team into two groups, one A and one B.. Group A will be subdivided into A1 and A2 and we are going to tell them a short story to which they will have to pay close attention because we are going to ask them for two different instructions.
The story can be any story, and so can the instructions, as long as they are different. For example, group A1 can be asked to tell us how many times we say the word "la", while group A2 can be asked to tell us how many times we say "una". An example story would be the following:
"Once upon a time there was in a village a little girl with dark hair and a red hood who was told by her mother to bring a basket of food. The little girl took the basket and went happily through the forest, walking along the path that led to her grandmother's house. On the way she met a wolf who tried to eat her, but the girl was able to run away, arriving at her grandmother's house and giving her the basket because she was very hungry."
While the A1 and A2 group are keeping an eye on how many "la" and "una" appear in the story, there is the other group, B. We have asked this group only one thing: to listen to the story attentively, nothing else. We did not ask them to pay attention to anything specific, just to be attentive while we told the story.
Once we have finished telling the story, we ask questions related to what we have just told them. Among these questions we could say "what color was the girl's hair?" or "what was in the basket?". Here we will see differences between groups A and B.
Those in group A, who will have been paying attention to the words we have told them to tell, will probably not have noticed what the story was about, while those in group B, who have only been asked to listen, will find it easier to answer these questions.
Here we see the difference between selective listening, which would correspond to what group A did, and active listening, which would be the case for group B.
5. Tell me your story
This activity is done in pairs. Each of the members will tell the other a story in a summarized form, with a strong emphasis on details and details of the story.Each member of the pair will tell the other member a story in a summarized way, emphasizing details and events that are important and significant for the one who is telling it. Afterwards, each member of the pair will introduce his/her partner and try to tell the same story he/she told him/her, trying to remember the details and highlights.
Once this first step has been completed and everyone has told their stories, there will be a discussion and a round of questions:
- Have you felt that your partner has listened to you and understood you?
- How did you feel when you told your story and your feelings?
- How did you feel when it was your turn to tell your partner's story and reflect his or her emotions?
- What was more difficult: repeating or reflecting? Why?
- What is the most important part of the message for you?
- What do you learn from this experience?
This activity aims to train attention by focusing on what is being said and the emotion that accompanies the telling of other people's stories.. It also allows us to train our empathy by trying to explain in a respectful way what others have confessed to us.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)