An essential emotional intelligence skill, at work and at home

Here is a listening activity that can help you learn to assist someone to debrief after an upsetting incident. 

In the workshop we take about 3 – 4 minutes for each person, so it can be done in a short amount of time.

You can practice this with a friend or colleague even before something upsetting happens.

One of you is the talker and the other the listener.

The talker shares a recent incident from their life that upset them and that they are prepared to talk about in 2 – 3 minutes.

Take time and create a space where you can focus on what the other person is really saying.

As the listener you are required to simply listen. Keep your mouth shut except to say a word or phrase that reflects back the other person’s feelings as they tell their story.

As the listener you will notice three things that may arise in you.

1.       You want to ask questions about what the other person is saying

2.       You want to tell a similar story of something that has happened to you

3.       You want to give advice to the talker about what they could have done differently.

When the talker has finished and you have acknowledged their feelings about what happened you can then swap. The first talker now becomes the listener and vice versa. 

In the space of six or seven minutes both of you can have the experience of being listened to and of listening.

In the workshops those who were doing the talking often say how good it is to have someone really listen and not interrupt, but just accept them, even for a couple of minutes.

The listeners, on the other hand, are surprised at how strongly they feel the urge to ask questions, tell their own story or give advice.

You may come to realize that so often you don’t really listen to other people in conversations.

·       You might ask questions to satisfy your own curiosity rather than help the other person.

·       You may tell your own similar story and take attention to yourself

·       You may give advice because you feel uncomfortable with the other’s story and want to fix them.

Listening is gift that helps people make sense of their world.

Good listening leads to healing from small or large upsets that have happened in a person’s life.

Listening requires you to;

Just listen – be there with them

Feel their discomfort – don’t try to fix them

Trust them – it’s their story – they are making sense of the events of their life

Acknowledge  – their feelings or experience

Use minimal encouragers – simple sounds or a nod of your head to let them know you are listening


Your reactions:

When you do listen to other people you will be affected. 

You will have feelings too.

Use the skills we teach elsewhere in the TUF programme to calm yourself down

Don’t ask questions – they reflect your issues not the other person’s concerns

Avoid telling your similar story – it’s not about you

No need to offer solutions or give advice – trust they can work it out

Good listeners slow the process down, there is no need to hurry the story.

Learn the difference between empathy and sympathy.