While communicating with others, it is important to use active listening skills. Listening attentively can significantly improve relationships and minimise misunderstandings. The best way to learn active listening is by practicing it while communicating with others in a realistic setting. This exercise helps delegates practice active listening in various contexts depending on your choice and training needs.
Use active listening to communicate with your partner, make a recommendation based on what you have understood and receive feedback on your understanding and listening skills.
- Divide the delegates to pairs.
- Explain that this is an exercise on listening skills and they must use what they have learned during the course (such as Active Listening, Empathy, etc.) while communicating with the other person in their group.
- One person in each group should volunteer to start as the talker. The other person will be the listener.
- You have various choices for the subject of these talks. You will need to decide on this before the exercise and then explain the objective to delegates in this exercise. All groups must use the same subject so they can then share their experience together during discussions. Consider the following subjects:
- A conversation with an estate agent. The talker is the house buyer and the listener is the estate agent. The talker should explain his needs, lifestyle and circumstances without specifically stating the required features.
- A conversation with a travel agent. The talker is the customer and the listener is the agent. The talker should talk about the characteristics of an ideal holiday without naming a particular destination.
- A work related conversation. The talker is the customer and the listener is a salesman from the delegates’ company. The talker should explain his needs and requirements without explicitly stating which product or service he is interested in.
- In each case, the listener should listen attentively to the talker. The listener should use active listening, empathy or questions when appropriate to indicate that he is following what the talker is saying.
- Allocate 5 minute for this conversation.
- Ask the listener to summarise what has been stated and then recommend an action based on their role. For example, in the case of a travel agent, the listener can recommend a particular holiday destination or package that matches the requirements of the customer (talker).
- The listener has 2 minutes to summarise the conversation and provide a recommendation.
- Ask the talkers to provide feedback to listeners on their listening performance.
- Swap roles and ask the pairs to repeat the exercise so everyone gets a chance to be a listener.
- Bring back everyone together and ask one pair at a time to provide a brief summary of the important lessons they have learned during this exercise.
- Encourage a discussion on key points.
Explaining the Exercise: 2 minutes
Activity: (5 min listening + 2 min summary + 2 min talker feedback) * 2 rounds = 18 minutes
Group Feedback: 10 minutes
Did you find it easy or hard to listen? What techniques did you employ to listen attentively and show that you are following the conversation? What did the talker think of your performance? What techniques were most effective in showing that the listener cared? Was there a pattern in misunderstandings and if yes, what causes them? Were the talkers happy with the recommendations they received from the listeners after explaining their situation?