Creative Community Tip: Simply Listen

A moment of listening at Athens Training

A moment of listening at an Athens Training (Photo credit: Themis Gkion – flowathens.com)

Giving advice is so much fun! It makes us feel so good—smart, helpful, and insightful. But consider the drawbacks. When we pile on advice, to a young person we’re working with or a family member or friend in need, we might be depriving them of their ability to look within and find their own answers. On the other side of the coin, when we endlessly seek advice, we can find ourselves flailing around in the swirl of opinions. Whether you work with young people or just want to be a better friend, this practice from the world of life coaching can set you on a new track.

Take ten minutes to practice deep listening with one another. Each person speaks about something they care about for five minutes with no interruption. Their partner simply listens without saying a word—no questions, no comments—only listening. Then you switch places, and the speaker becomes the listener.

“This is so hard,” reported a participant in one of our trainings. “I wanted to ask questions so I really understood. But, surprise, surprise, I realized my questions would have taken her in a completely different direction in the conversation. I would have actually hijacked her train of thought.” For some people, it’s hard to even know what to say once they have someone truly listening, but they get the hang of it quite quickly.

“In just five minutes I was able to work out a problem that had been niggling at me all week,” reported another participant. “Once I realized I wouldn’t be interrupted, I relaxed and my thoughts started to flow.” Through practicing the 10-minute listening activity, you’ll likely become far more aware of the power of “simply listen.” In the process, you’ll become a more attuned facilitator and more supportive friend.

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