At a recent workshop I gave my participants time to simply listen to each other. The experiment was for one person to talk about a concern while their partner listened intently but didn’t say a word. The listener remained silent for a long 4-5 minutes and then summarized what the speaker said. The speakers remarked that it felt “weird” to talk without interruption for that long. The listeners said that they had never sat that long without interrupting. Some of the listeners doubted the worth of such prolonged silence. However, when we reversed roles, these listeners-turned-speakers realized the power of uninterrupted speaking. At the end of the 4 hour workshop, most participants agreed that the simple “listen without interrupting” experiment was the most important part of their day. Many felt that the silence helped both the speaker and listener learn more about the issue. Many vowed that they would strive not to interrupt others at work and at home.
Ready to try this experiment? Set a goal of listening to someone speak for 5 minutes without interrupting. Make sure to keep eye contact, nod and/or make sounds to show you are listening. In some cases this may make the speaker uncomfortable. We aren’t used to receiving such rapt attention. If necessary, summarize what the speaker has said to reassure them that you are listening. After listening you may find that you’ve discovered deeper insights into a problem, situation, or another person.In addition to helping with creative problem solving, deep listening develops empathy for others and helps build teams.© 2013 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved