Learning to Listen


Every day we find ourselves in situations where we have to listen and speak. While we often do not realise it, the art of true listening is hard for many people and puts a lot of stress on any dialogue.

When it is our turn to listen, it is often easy for our minds to drift: “how should I respond to this?”, “Did I lock my door this morning?” etc. What people say can trigger reactions or memories in ourselves, which can distract or make us want to contribute and disrupt the speaker. When someone suffers, we often feel the urge to help solve their problem or at least feel that we have to say something reassuring. But generally what is needed is just to listen, to understand without judgment or reaction, to listen with compassion. If we develop our abilities to listen without judgment, we deepen the connection to each other and can understand other people's perspectives. Listening this way is fundamental for peace creation.

In this exercise, participants work in pairs to develop deep listening by focusing wholeheartedly on the speaker, creating a safe space, without commenting or reacting. They also enter into a dialogue in order to ensure that they have understood what has been said.

Activity Type

Group/ Experiential


1 to 2 hours

Learning Outcomes

  • To develop empathetic communication and the courage to communicate from the heart

  • To understand the people around us

  • To notice the language that we use when expressing ourselves


Required Materials and Tools:

  • A device to watch the video clip with participants

  • A Timer

  • Flip chart paper/ extra large sheet of paper

  • Flip chart pens

Step-by-Step Instructions:

Organise the participants into pairs.

  1. Establish who in the pair will be the first person to speak by asking arbitrary questions: “Who in the pair has darker hair is the first to start" or "Who has more colorful clothes?”.

  2. Invite the participants to think of a memorable emotional experience from their life. It can be a current situation or a memory that comes from the heart. A question can be asked to provide context and help stimulate the group. Be sure to have a good question which enables to speak for quite some time.

  3. Inform the participants of the format of the conversation in advance.

  4. The first person shares [Allow 10 minutes].

    1. If they run out of things to share before the time is up, they should hold the silence. They are always welcome to start speaking again during those 10 minutes.

    2. Listeners should not speak during the 10 minutes, only paying close attention and focusing on the speaker, they should try not to internally or externally react, not letting their mind wander to themselves, the past, or future.

    3. The facilitator lets the group know when 1 min is left, by ringing a quiet bell or chime.

  5. Once the first speaker has finished, the listener should communicate back what they understood. If the speaker feels that the listener has misunderstood them in any way, the speaker should explain what they meant. This part of the process may need to be repeated until the speaker is satisfied that they have been understood. [Allow 10 minutes]

  6. Ask the pairs to now swap the roles.

  7. Finally, invite the whole group to gather into a circle and share about their experience based on the reflection questions (see below). Record the emerging key words/phrases on a flip chart in the centre. Allow 20 minutes for this step, adjusting to accommodate the size of the group.



  • How did it feel to share?

  • How did it feel to listen without the need to judge/comment/resolve?

Instructions for Submission

Upload 1 photo of some of the pairs working (get permission first). Submit a short written reflection. Instructions on how to upload photos and how to submit things in Moodle can be found here: Instructions on Submission&Uploading

Instructions for Assessment

Provide feedback to at least one participant that has done this activity. Instructions on providing feedback can be found here: Instructions on Feedback

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