Benefits of This Active Listening Training Activity Exercise
We provide below a free active listening training activity exercise that you can use during your training courses.
The idea that we have only one mouth but two ears and that is because we should listen twice as much as we speak, holds true. We are often so anxious to speak that we do not actively listen.
This is a simple free active listening training activity to run that is useful with any communications training, team building training, or management training.
Length of Active Listening Activity
For this listening skills activity, we would suggest 15 minutes
Please feel free to re-use this activity as you wish in your own training.
Getting the Activity Started
Ask participants to form groups of up to 4 people per group.
Then give each group a sheet of A1 paper from a flipchart and some colored markers.
Ask each group to brainstorm and come up with a list of things that can stop us from listening and write the list on the A1 sheet of paper.
If it helps them, ask participants to think of a time when they were not listened to or when they realized they were not listening to someone. Why did they think that happened?
Give them 5 minutes to brainstorm and write the list down.
After 5 minutes, ask the groups to share their answer with the rest of the class and start a discussion, which should last about 10 minutes.
Class Discussion for the Active Listening Activity
During or after the discussion, show the bullet points on the list shown on the Active Listening PPT PowerPoint slide below, to compare them with the answers that participants gave and to comment.
Teacher Notes for the Discussion on Active Listening
1. Lack of focus (due to external distractions or internal ones, such as being hungry, cold, or upset)
There are many distractions that can stop us from listening, including checking our phones while we talk with someone, or internal distractions such as being hungry, tired, or worried about something.
2. Making assumptions
Sometimes we think we know what somebody will say even before they have said it, so we do not listen properly because we think we know what they are going to say.
This can lead to making wrong assumptions and to us not listening to anything that does NOT fit with those assumptions.
3. Being in a hurry
If we are in a hurry, we cannot focus on what is being said. So, it is better to set time aside if we need to speak to somebody about something important.
4. Having to be right
Sometimes, our main priority is to prove we are right. We’ve all been there at one time, right?
As a result, we are not prepared to listen to anything that does not fit our agenda.
5. Trying to do too many things at once
Multitasking is a myth. A person cannot focus properly on more than one thing at the same time.
We can switch between tasks fairly quickly, but this reduces the efficiency with which we are able to focus.
6. Being more worried about what you are going to say next than about what you are hearing
Sometimes, especially during arguments or when we are under stress, we are more worried about what we are going to say next than about what the person in front of us is saying.
This means that we miss large parts of what the other person says.
Why Is Effective Listening Important?
Effective listening skills are important for a number of reasons, so, having given you the activity above, I thought that I would also just go through the reasons why it’s important.
1. Helps Deepen Relationships
Active listening helps you focus on a person and find out things about them that you would have not known otherwise. The more you listen, the deeper your relationships will be.
Also, the other person will open up to you more and they will be more likely to trust you and be your friends, rather than just acquaintances.
2. Encourages Collaboration
If you listen better to other people, you will be able to develop better collaborations.
For example, at work, you and your colleagues will be able to listen to each other and learn about each other’s ideas, and develop possible projects.
(Learn more about teaching Collaboration Skills).
3. Increases Productivity
When people listen to each other, this decreases the risk of miscommunication, which is often one of the major causes of delays (as errors caused by miscommunication need to be rectified).
4. Increases Empathy
Empathy refers to the ability to understand another person and share their feelings. If you put yourself in someone else’s shoes, this helps you understand where other people are coming from.
5. Helps You Understand What Motivates People
By listening to people effectively, you will understand what makes them tick. So, you will be able to motivate them. This is a good skill to have if you are a manager, for example, or if you are dealing with customers or negotiating with someone.
6. Reduces the Frequency of Conflicts and Helps Find Win-win Solutions
When two people listen to each other, they are more likely to understand each other’s motivations and to empathize.
As a result, they are more likely to either not start a conflict or, if they do, they will be more likely to find a win-win solution to the conflict.
7. Improves Your Leadership Skills
If you manage other people at work, knowing how to listen effectively and in a manner that projects compassion, and empathy is such a valuable skill.
It is surprising how many managers lack the ability to actively listen, meaning to genuinely focus on what is being said, rather than focusing on what they want to say next.
We are all guilty of often failing to fully listen but as a manager, this is even more vital because listening provides you with the chance to:
- learn about any issues, suggestions, or ideas the employee has
- make informed decisions
- be seen as a more supportive manager who cares
Good leaders are often excellent listeners. By paying attention to their team members, leaders can make informed decisions, inspire their teams, and create a more supportive work environment.
Active Listening Skills Examples in Practice
Scenario 1: Performance Review Discrepancies
During an annual performance review, an employee feels unfairly assessed and undervalued by their manager. The employee believes their contributions have been overlooked.
The manager, Dan, is someone who progressed through the company and until getting this role as a manager, he had no experience in management and realised that he is still learning the role.
Dan sensed, in the first round of annual performance reviews, that he could have done better and he has since embraced training offered by his HR department, and one of the courses he did was in active listening skills.
In recent appraisals he had to do, he took the time to listen more carefully and attentively and avoided interrupting and he also clarified some things raised in the appraisals, by asking further questions.
Dan is certain that the appraisals went better after the training, with his employees providing more valuable feedback and a better general vibe in the meetings.
Scenario 2: Team Conflict Resolution
Two team members constantly clash during collaborative projects, causing disruptions and affecting team morale. Each member believes their approach is superior and doesn’t listen to the other’s suggestions.
Abir, the team leader, organizes a mediation session where both members can express their perspectives without interruptions.
Abir actively listens to each side, paraphrasing their arguments to ensure understanding. By encouraging active listening between the conflicting members, the leader helps them see common ground.
They facilitate a discussion where the team members understand the strengths of each approach and work together to combine elements from both methods, fostering collaboration and mutual respect.
The two team members started working well together and are now great friends and colleagues.
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