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Listening Exercises To Help You Become a Better Communicator
Doing these listening exercises can help you improve your listening and your connection with other people.
A few pointers on how to do the exercises on this page.
- The exercises need to be done while sitting face to face with a partner.
- Do the exercises in the order they appear on this page.
- Take turns to practice so you both can learn and appreciate the effects of the exercises in the speaker and in the listener roles.
Active Listening Exercises
Exercise 1: Face to face repeat
Your partner says one short paragraph, you repeat it word for word. If you can’t repeat it word for word, try doing the exercise with a shorter sentence until you can repeat it word for word.
Take turns with the other person at doing the “repeat” exercise.
Consider this drill a warm up, to prepare you for the next exercises.
Exercise 2: Face to face paraphrase
Sit face to face with someone else. Your partner says a short sentence, you listen to it, and render it back using similar words and sentence structure. Rearrange words or substitute words to give the message back to you partner. Ask the speaker if the message is still the same. Ask your partner if you were able to paraphrase or if you are just repeating. If the speaker tells you that you are just repeating, dare to move words around and to replace them with synonyms until you can successfully paraphrase what your speaker said.
Take turns with your partner, practice this paraphrasing exercise until you both feel you are good at paraphrasing a message back.
Exercise 3: Face to face reflect
This exercise requires your full concentration and attention. Sit face to face with a partner. First observe the facial expression, the mood, the gaze of the other person. Then ask your partner to give you a sentence for you to reflect back to him.
Your partner tells you a sentence or two. You listen, understand, think about it and reflect it back to your partner using your own words.
Ask your partner if you reflected the message correctly. Ask him if you were in tune with his feelings and mood. If you successfully completed this exercise, your (reflective) listening will make your partner feel listened to and understood by you.
Keep doing these exercises, especially the reflective listening exercises for as many times as you think it’s needed to master this listening skill.
Other Listening Exercises
Listen to all sounds around you: a refrigerator humming, a keyboard clicking, an air conditioning system rumbling. Listen to the distant (and not so distant) traffic noise; any airplanes flying by? Listen to people working, people hammering, people mowing the lawn. Listen to people talking, people laughing, or crying. Listen to your own noises, your own breathing.
Tell your partner what sounds you hear and what you think about them. You may discover you are analytical or judgmental about sounds. See if there is a pattern to your thoughts about sounds.
You may be thinking this listening exercise sounds more like a mindfulness exercise. Well, it is. In your journey to become a better listener, you’ll become more mindful. There is not such as thing as a good listener that is mindless. The point of this mindfulness exercise is to make you slow down and be mindful of what you hear. Your auditory system is automatically perceiving and differentiating sounds. Being aware of this process can give you more conscious control over what you chose to listen to.
Sit face to face with a partner. Your partner will say a color, e.g. red. You respond: “red”. Your partner says another color: “blue”, you respond: “blue”. Your partner says another color and so forth. Each time you respond back with the color your partner said.
Increase the speed at which you respond to the other person. As soon as he starts to say a color, you respond until you are almost saying the colors at the same time.
You will be surprised at the results. Let me ruin the surprise by telling you that by the end of the exercise you and your partner will be saying colors at the same time. You may feel that your partner is reading your mind, he may feel the same way about you.
You may ask what’s the point of this exercise. The point is to become aware that we can tune into someone else’s space much farther than we currently do. We have the capability to focus and pay attention in ways that we usually don’t.
You can do this exercise every time you are part of an argument or a witness of somebody else’s argument. Put yourself in the shoes of other people; try viewing the world through their point of view.
No need to over-analyze it, just listen for cues that tell you what’s driving people to say what they say and to do what they do.
You can think of this as solving a jigsaw puzzle. You start with the pieces of what people say and do, then you add their frame of reference, what you know about them, and then you add the current circumstances of the argument. Try not to second guess, try to listen for cues.
The point of this exercise is to help you detach from your own point of view; being attached to our own point can be a barrier to listening.
Practice these listening exercises until you can complete them successfully. The exercises can also help you become a better listener, and by default a better communicator.