3 Ways to Practice Bright Listening
As a coach and facilitator, I often guide leaders and teams through bright listening exercises. Here are a few I find particularly effective (and I practiced them myself during a wonderful two-day workshop called “Scaling Intimacy” led by Jenny Sauer-Klein).
For each exercise, partner-up. If you’re video conferencing, create breakout groups in pairs or groups of three if you have an odd number. You’ll conduct four rounds of activities that last between two and four minutes each.
Now, think of an experience or event that’s important and significant to you. You’ll be sharing this story with one other person, but not the whole group.
Round 1: Decide who will go first, and then have each person share their story for one minute. The facilitator should let the breakout group know when it’s time to switch roles.
Activity: Act distracted. As one person speaks, the other one looks at their phone, their computer screen, down at their desk — anything to make it clear they’re not really present. After one minute, switch roles. Come back to the main group and debrief.
Round 2: Now switch who goes first and have each person share their same story again for one minute. The facilitator will let the breakout group know when it is time to switch roles.
Activity: Interrupt. As one person starts speaking, the other immediately interrupts and says the exact word that the speaker just spoke. Repeat, with both parties interrupting each other for one minute each. Come back to the main group and debrief.
Round 3: Switch the person who goes first and each person shares this same story again for 2 minutes. The facilitator will let the breakout group know when it is time to switch roles.
Activity: Bright listening. As the speaker starts talking, the listener leans in, makes eye contact, mirrors the emotions, and tracks the conversation with full presence and in complete silence. Listener remains silent until the speaker stops talking. If there is more time left, the listener can prompt the speaker with, “Tell me more!” or “Anything else?” Come back to the main group and debrief.
Prepare to be surprised by how powerful these seemingly simple exercises can be!
Read why every leader should practice “bright listening” to help their teams thrive.
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Candra Canning is the founder of Live Bright Now. She’s been coaching corporate leaders + teams to brighten their performance for 20 years. Candra believes a bright company culture creates bright leaders + bright communities — even a brighter world.