Active Listening Activities

active listening activities
Active Listening Creates Cohesive Teams

5 Active Listening Activities

With a bit practice Active Listening easily can become part of all your interactions with your friends, business colleagues and those occasional strangers you meet along your journey. Active listening ramps up the participation, creativity and value of each member on your team. For a moment think about all the ideas, paths and solutions generated by a team where each member is fully engaged and contributing, that’s the magic created by active listening.

Active Listening is not only a great way to hear and understand the thoughts, ideas and insights that someone has to share but also allows you (the listener) to quiet your own mind for a little while. And who among us can’t use a break from our own chattering mind.

I’ve collected 10 Active Listening Activities to help facilitate a deeper understanding of listening within groups and teams. Perhaps you might try coming to an agreement within your group on 2, 3 or even 4 of these activities to integrate into your group, this conversation will give you first hand look at the level of listening existing within your group.

Personal Histories

An easy and fun activity to undertake with your team or group members is to interview each other one on one.Interviewing a single person allows for easy concentration and also alleviates any uncomfortableness someone might have talking about themselves to a large group of people.

If your group is more than 8 people than you might try doing interviews with 3 people at a time, this allows the intimacy and casualness of a small number but also speeds up the process when there are a larger number of people involved.

The first time you interview each other, use questions already agreed to by the group, this helps keep the stress levels down. (a) Where were you born? (b) do you have a favorite summer memory? (c) tell me about a challenge you overcame in high school?

It’s always a good idea to have a couple of fallback questions in case some of the questions couldn’t be answered. (d) Tell me something you’d like everyone to know about you? Etc.

And conclude this exercise by sharing with the group what you learned you didn’t know about the person or persons you’ve interviewed, and what you learned by the process of diving into active listening. 

If your group is more than 8 people than you might try doing interviews with 3 people at a time, this allows the intimacy and casualness of a small number but also speeds up the process when there are a larger number of people involved.

The first time you interview each other, use questions already agreed to by the group, this helps keep the stress levels down. (a) Where were you born? (b) do you have a favorite summer memory? (c) tell me about a challenge you overcame in high school?

It’s always a good idea to have a couple of fallback questions in case some of the questions couldn’t be answered. (d) Tell me something you’d like everyone to know about you? Etc.

And conclude this exercise by sharing with the group what you learned you didn’t know about the person or persons you’ve interviewed, and what you learned by the process of diving into active listening. 

Tirade-Bluster

We all go off on tangents about subjects we feel are important to us and often these tangents seem to outsiders more as tirades or blustering. It can be hard for a listener to understand the underlying meaning or intent when most of the words are tinged by powerful emotional hooks.

But the Tirade-Bluster can also be illuminating if the listener has set aside their own emotional hooks and judgements. 

The next exercise is for each member of the team to rant, rave and bluster to their hears content for up to 2 minutes. The person blustering can stamp their feet, waves their hands and arms, frown and growl and of course raise their voice freely.

The listener or listeners job is to let everything happen without turning away or cast judgements out loud or internally. This is a free zone of express with the only goal of the listeners to dig out some insight of the bluster episode.

There are no grades, no right and wrong. The only goal is for the Tirade to be something that bothers the speaker and the listener gives their full attention to what’s going on.

At the end the listener will share what they heard using these 3 cues, 1. you care about, 2. you value and 3. _ _ _ _ _ is important to you without using any of the negative tirade/bluster in their observations.

The speaker should tell the listener if they got it or didn’t get it. Yep it’s hard but a great way to practice.

Build Upon It

Build Upon It is an Active Listening Activity that can be lots of fun and most surely strengthens the concentration of all the participants.

Pair of into groups of 2 or 3 if you have an-uneven number in the group.

Start off with someone saying a sentence in story form such as The clouds were puffy and light. The 2nd person repeats The clouds were puffy and light and then adds their own words When I looked up from my walk in the forest. Now the first person repeats When I looked up from my walk in the forest and adds their own next line to the story. Birds where disappearing as they flew into the puffy clouds.

So repeat the line from listener A and add a new line to it and rinse and repeat. Note: you only have to repeat the last line spoken as you build the story to it’s conclusion.. Do this for 10 minutes or more and recording it might be fun. Once done switch partners with another group.

The Moon’s Reflection

Have you seen the moon reflecting in water? Maybe a lake, river or a in a rippling stream? it’s a wonderful sight to behold and one to be gazed upon seemingly endlessly.

Partner up in groups of two and stand face to face about 3 feet between you, you might want to put a piece of tape marking the center of the space between you. The tape or a piece of paper marks the line neither of you can cross.

One person starts by moving around within their space and the 2nd person mirrors their movements without crossing the boundary line. do this for around 5 minutes and then switch roles. do this a couple of times for each role.

If the mirroring person is having a hard time keeping up please slow your movements and no talking but facial emotions on the are encouraged

Think up creative variations and feel free to shorten the time between the role switch.

Catch If You Can

Our imagination can extend and build an endless amount of links from one thing to another. What if we use our imagination to extend and build upon something first imagined by someone else?

Creativity is all about extending an idea, concept, painting, poem, and a myriad of other thoughts and concoctions first brought into existence by another. And of course that creation was built upon associations jumbling around in another mind.

This exercise is a full group Active Listening Activity and one I think you’ll find fun and reveling at the same time.

Create a circle where everyone is standing with only a small space between each other, maybe 12 inches. One person makes a sound and with both hands tosses it another person in the circle.

As the sound is tossed the receiving person reaches out with both hands to catch the sound, as though catching an apple. and brings that sound into their chest, stomach or head depending on how it makes them feel.

Once the receiving person has caught the sound they must repeat it and include the expression and movements of the the person who tossed it, and then create a new sound of their own and toss it to a new person.

The quicker the toss, catch, repeat and toss can be the more fun will develop. This is a listening and spontaneity exercise, so resist planning your sound creations ahead of time. As in mindfulness practice there is no gaining idea, just focus and flow.

Active Listening Activities Conclusion

Group activities can at times create unease and anxious feelings especially among those a bit shy, and this goes for acting spontaneous for those who are use to being the leader or being in control.

The key to active listening is letting everyone in the group know that we are actively putting our assumptions and judgements into a locked box while we are together. Each of us needs to let the other be comfortable in participation within the group.

To paraphrase an old saying ” walk a mile in the others shoes before claiming to understand them to any degree.”

When assumptions about the motives and actions of others creep into my thoughts I often quietly repeat ” in their shoes.” The result is often a smile on my face as my compassion rises and my assumptions (at least temporarily) melt away.

Active Listening at it’s core is after all, “in their shoes.”

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