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4.2
Listening to Understand

Submitted by Jessica Friedrichs

This activity is designed to help participants practice specific listening techniques that can be incorporated in everyday life. This activity can be adapted online but is described here as an in-person process that requires movement.

average rating is 5 out of 5, based on 1 votes, rating(s)
Brown metal sign with word listen against clear blue sky

Learning Goals

  • Learn and practice specific strategies of listening.

  • Explore how active listening can be applied regularly in all facets of daily life.

Instructions


Set Up: Prepare for the Activity

A large room with moveable chairs is required for this activity. (Refer to the CDP newsletter post on this activity for online adaptation instructions.)

Begin by introducing the learning goals of this activity.



Step One: Individually Reflect on Listening (5 min)

Share the following questions and ask participants to record their responses on a piece of paper:

  • Do you consider yourself a good listener?

  • Are you more comfortable listening or talking?

  • How do you know if someone is really listening to you?



Step Two: Introduce Listening Concepts (10 min)

Share the following concepts on a board or flip chart. Review together and record any reactions or questions about each.

  • Silence is golden

  • Try not to relate the experience you are hearing to yourself

  • Be conscious of body language

  • Hear what is not said

  • Balance

    • Open-ended questions elicit more information

    • Closed-ended questions allow you to control the conversation

    • Don’t ask excessive questions

  • Check understanding: recap or paraphrase what you hear to validate and clarify



Step Three: Set Up Concentric Circles (5 min)

Arrange the chairs so that they are either in concentric circles or short rows with chairs facing each other.

Each person should be facing only one other person, so they are in pairs.

Take into account that you will be switching pairs a few times, so make it easy for that to happen.


After each round, one group will get up and move to the chair to their right. For example, participants in the inner circle of the concentric circle will move to the right so that they will have a new partner.

Make sure everyone is in a chair facing one other person.



Step Four: Round 1 - Practice Active Listening (5 min)

Designate the inner circle to be “listeners” and the outer circle to be “speakers” for this first round.

Explain that the listener is going to try to practice the following listening concepts:

  • Silence is golden

  • Try not to relate the experience to yourself

  • Be conscious of body language

  • Hearing what is not said


If participants are assigned to “speak,” the challenge is to continue talking for the entire time.

If participants are assigned to “listen,” then they should not speak during this round. They will not get a chance to respond to this person so they don’t need to worry about what they would say next. They are simply listening.


Invite the speakers to talk about the following prompt for two minutes:

  • Share a life transition you’ve experienced.



Stop the discussion immediately at the 2-minute mark.

Instruct participants to thank each other.



Step Five: Round 2 - Switch Roles and Practice Active Listening (5 min)

Have the inner circle move over one seat to the right, while the outer circle remains where they are.

Each person now has a new partner. Flip the roles for this round so that if the participant listened last time, now they will be speaking this time and vice versa.

Invite the speakers to talk about the same prompt for two minutes:

  • Share a life transition you’ve experienced.


Stop the discussion immediately at the 2-minute mark.

Instruct participants to thank each other.



Step Six: Round 3 - Practice Active Listening + Dialoguing (5 min)

Have the inner circle move over one seat to the right again, while the outer circle remains where they are.

Again, each person now has a new partner.


This round, explain that listeners will practice the following elements of listening – which include dialoguing.

Concepts:

  • Balance

    • Open-ended questions elicit more information

    • Closed-ended questions allow you to control the conversation

    • Don’t ask excessive questions

  • Check understanding: recap or paraphrase what you heard to validate and clarify



Participants will have three minutes for this round. While the speaker responds to the prompt below, the listener may ask two or three thoughtful questions.

Instruct listeners not to express statements (“I totally agree!”) Instead, instruct them to only ask questions (“Was there a person that was important in your life then?”)


For 3 minutes, the speaker will respond to the following prompt with the listener asking a few questions:

  • What is your most significant gift?



Step Seven: Round 4 - Switch Roles and Practice Active Listening + Dialoguing (5 min)

Pairs stay with the same person as they were with in Round 3.

Instruct them to switch roles. The speaker will talk about the same prompt:

  • What is your most significant gift?




Step Eight: Debrief as Full Group (10 min)

  • What did you learn about how you listen? About how you speak?

  • What emotions did you pick up on from the person you spoke with in each round? Was it different depending on the round/prompt and if so, why might that be?

  • What did you learn about power dynamics in Round 1?

  • As the questioner, was it hard to listen while also thinking of questions to ask? What about thinking about what you were going to say when it was your turn for a prompt?

TIME

50

min

MODULE

Culturally Responsive Collaboration

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0 Comments

average rating is 4 out of 5

Sovi Herring

May 30, 2024 at 6:42:10 PM

This activity is great when a group is comfortable sharing thoughts--but it is modified to be more introspective at first. There are two versions of this, one to recognize "normalized" feelings, the other is labeled "extreme" as the group was practicing navigating high emotion. This first one covers parents, cats, dogs: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1IvLsBe_FtDG6twalxiKxBHEdt99gJR1V/edit?usp=sharing&ouid=113770591818162655510&rtpof=true&sd=true This one is to recognize more difficult to talk about feelings of fear, disgust, etc.: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1NkZoBCJ3iI5VbkqmjqVuW-_I36MBASOW/edit?usp=sharing&ouid=113770591818162655510&rtpof=true&sd=true

average rating is 5 out of 5

Sovi Herring

May 30, 2024 at 6:28:11 PM

This activity was modified for a Business & Professional Communication class. It is best when the groups have gone through the guidelines activity to help facilitate how to communicate and even the 3.4 ambiguity. This is a difficult activity if the class is uncomfortable speaking (and in my case they were very adverse to discussing these in any group). Here is how I set it up (along with a print out of the words). It is modified to fit the business world, but worked well as a concept. https://liveduq-my.sharepoint.com/:p:/g/personal/herrings1_duq_edu/EWr2jxM5HLlNmgWvYA43gwwBmoBYJP9juGJDD4m1M2H0BQ?e=TYnsVb

average rating is 5 out of 5

May 28, 2024 at 1:33:05 AM

average rating is 5 out of 5

May 28, 2024 at 1:31:01 AM

average rating is 5 out of 5

February 14, 2024 at 1:03:34 AM

average rating is 5 out of 5

February 14, 2024 at 1:02:20 AM

average rating is 5 out of 5

February 11, 2024 at 3:55:15 AM

average rating is 5 out of 5

January 4, 2024 at 7:22:22 PM

average rating is 5 out of 5

December 12, 2023 at 11:56:40 PM

average rating is 5 out of 5

Lori Britt

October 3, 2023 at 5:00:05 PM

Have done this in the past, but today a group really blew me away. I did this as a Fishbowl with 7 students taking roles. Prior to the converstaion they could seek input from a few other students about what which decision they think the person in their role would support and why. I also asked them to come up with some things that were concerns for them. This 10 minute of prep time helped my role play participants really embody and feel confident in their roles. Great discussion about what deliberation looks like in practice and about how power can impact conversations and how a facilitator can try and minimize these power imbalances. I used the scenario above and assigned these roles (I was not sure my students woul be able to consider roles that would offer different perspectives): • Facilitator (non-voting) • Mayor • High school teacher • 17-year-old high school student • Transportation planner for the region • Local business owner • Economic development office for the region (your community and the surrounding communities served by the train) • 50-year-old who lost his job last year and who has been on unemployment

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