Group Dynamics -- Listening Exercise

- a group dynamics exercise

PURPOSE: This exercise teachs people how to listern far better than they normally do. It teaches how to set aside personal agenda to fully hear another without judgement or the need to give advice. You can learn to fully take in all another says as well as what they do not say with words, but with only emotions or implied connotations. In-depth listening can be the one of the greatest gifts you can give another person.

This exercise can be done any size group and has great group dynamics for ages down to about 14 years old. It can be used in schools to teach listening in the speech classes. The procedure given below is the way it is done in a community building workshop, but it can be adapted for your use with a little creativity.


1. Form the people in pairs. Have them sit facing each other, but not touching. The facilitator says to the pair, "Decide who is A and who is B. Then, A is to talk about something important to person B for 3 minutes. Person B is to only listen as closely as possible. Then, I will signal for B to start talking to person A for 3 minutes and A will only listen. Do not respond to the speaker or touch them.

2. Following this, discuss how it was to listen and how hard or easy it was to suppress you own thoughts or need to respond verbally.

3. Then do it again. Add to the instructions: "Now try harder to listen with your whole body to make the listening deeper. Pay attention to your body language and what it says to the listener. Start now and continue speaking about something important for 4 minutes each. See: Listening Body Language for suggestions on this.

4. Again, have individuals talk about how it was to listen more with their whole body and emphasis how it may have been hard to restrain giving any verbal comments or touching the other person.

5. Following this, add to the instructions:
"This time listen so intently that the speaker feels they are being physically held because your listening is so intense. Let them know that you are fully taking in all their emotions as well as the words and what is not being spoken. Do this for 5 minutes and continue to speak about something important."

By this time, some pairs may really be into emotional speaking, even tears. Be mindful of this when calling time. Many times you will have one or more pairs that need to continue to processing. If this happens, quietly have the remaining pairs quietly gather around them to allow the processing to continue until finished.

6. Then discuss what they have learned and what they will take home with them.

(Used this to warm up the group before doing the exercise)

NOTE: For more information about the process of emptiness,
see The Different Drum, by Dr. M. Scott Peck.

PROCEDURE: In the group, have volunteres read each of the following paragraphs. Following the reading of all paragraphs, discuss the meaning in the group. Have them tell what emptiness might mean to them.

Emptiness is a word relating to open space - "nothing in a space". It is also a metaphor suggesting to make room or space for others by removing your personal ego from that space. If you are very "full" of yourself with whatever makes up your self-identification, then it is often difficult to be accepting and understanding of others' vulnerability. It is also difficult to accept the reaching out of another person. The process of emptying oneself (letting go), is making space for others by transcending your ego to accept others just as they are. By letting others into our lives, we find out important things about ourselves and we build relationships and community.

Emptiness also has to do with making space within yourself for something new. People are often so full that there is no room for the new. By searching inward and looking at what occupies your thinking or self-talk or "wants", you can find what needs to let go.

This can take a number of different forms. Sometimes you may choose to share a painful event with the group and in so doing let go of some or all the pain. The painful event will then not occupy so much mental space and you may begin to be open something new into your live. At other times it may be the letting go of a material "want". And at other times it may be realizing that your 'self-talk' is negative and choose to replace it with positive thoughts. Whatever form it takes, it allows the new to become a part of your live and to perhaps realize you are far more happy than you give yourselve credit for daily and it allows you to see beauty that is all around us.

From Dr. Scott Peck . . . ."Emptiness is the most crucial stage of community development. It is the bridge between chaos and community. The stage of emptiness in community development is a time of sacrifice. Such sacrifice hurts because it is a kind of death, the kind of death that is necessary for rebirth."

Now read the following:

A number of skills go into allowing emptiness (letting go):

  • It takes courage to look deep within yourself, to discover with increasing awareness of what is not working.
  • It requires the ability to risk to "let go" of what is no longer needed.
  • It involves acceptance and validation of the person.
  • It uses silence as a most essential ingredient of the emptiness process. Silence allows us to hear ourselves and to hear others and to even hear the "spirit" or God. To be still and accept silence is often difficult to learn.
  • To facilitate emptiness in another, requires listening with your whole person to the other, even to the point that the other person feels physically and emotionally "held" and accepted by you.

    Stop here to discuss the above. Then go on to read the following:

    Let's look at emptiness more from a personal viewpoint of what may need to be emptied:

  • To empty ourselves of our agendas in order to be able to hear those of others.
  • To empty ourselves of our prejudices, biases, stereotypes, projections, etc. in order to see and hear what is real.
  • To empty ourselves of our expectations and required outcomes.
  • To empty ourselves of the need to organize or control a group or person or our environment or an outcome.
  • To empty ourselves of the need to be "Captain of our Fate"; to surrender our lives to a "Higher Power" a spirit greater than ourselves.
  • To empty ourselves of the defensive barriers that prevent the intimacy you really want.

Discuss the above.

From Dr. M. Scott Peck, The Different Drum . . . . .
"Emptiness can also be a need for intimate contact and sharing our lives with other people. We may feel "empty" because of the longing for closeness to another person. This need may be to have another listen and hear our feeling and who we are. It may be to have your person validated as being fully human in your vulnerability and be accepted for who you are and just as you are without judgment or attempts to fix, heal, or convert. At the same time, intimacy with another helps us see who we are and how we want to live among others."

©Exercise copyrighted by Jerry L. Hampton, 1994 - 2004


Barriers to Communications
Automatic Talking
Body Language for the Listener
Letting Go (a poem)
On Being Authentic

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