The purpose of this exercise is to help increase each group member's skill as a listener by practicing "active listening." Divide your people into groups of three. Each person is to take his turn at being a P (problem presenter), L (listener), and O (observer). Active listening is a way of showing love based on the theory that a person has the necessary resources within himself to solve his own problems, provided he is aware that there is someone interested enough to hear what he is saying in a nonjudgmental way. Therefore, the active part of active listening is the "feedback" that the listener gives to let the problem presenter know he has accurately heard what is being said and felt. The active listener neither judges nor offers solutions. The active listener merely tries to hear, understand, and let the person know he understands what is being said and felt.
5 minutes: P presents his problem while L listens (actively).
2 minutes: P and L talk over feelings and ideas that came out of the first five minutes.
2 minutes: O reports his observations to P and L.
P: Choose a real, current, personal problem dealing with interpersonal relationships that can be presented and understood in five minutes. Try to get real help with this problem. Try to connect any changes in feeling with the responses given by L.
L: Listen thoughtfully to the problem presented. Your task is not to give advice, but to let P know you understand what he is saying. This can be done by remaining silent and just listening, asking open-ended questions that allow P to move forward, reflecting back in your own words what you think you have heard P say, and sharing similar experiences in which you have been involved, not to provide an answer, but to let P know you can identify with his problem.
0: Listen carefully, keep track of the time, and note how well L does on the following checklist:
1. Was L listening for feelings and trying to understand?
2. Did L recognize P's problem as legitimate?
3. Did L remember that his first aim was to learn to love?
4. Were L's questions open-ended or were they leading questions?
5. Did L resist the temptation to express his own convictions while he was trying to learn to know P?
Change positions until everyone has played each role.
*Used by permission of Discipleship Journal. Copyright 1989, The Navigators. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. To subscribe, visit www.discipleshipjournal.com, or call (800) 877-1811.
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The video below is from Augsburg Fortress, and is one of several parts of a leadership development series included with a specific curriculum that they publish. We are offering this video not to promote that curriculum, but because the presenter offers some very solid tips on how you can improve your skills as an active listener.