Deep Listening

flickr photo shared by onnola under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license


How many of us go to therapists in our modern world? Why have therapists come to occupy such an important place in our lives? If we reflect better - bottom line, isn’t a therapist someone that we pay to simply lend a friendly ear to us?To listen? In this modern rat race where we live life at a crazy pace, we often have no time for friends and family - we are always in a hurry. We seem to be forgetting about friendship, community, trust and that special thing that is inherent in all of us - empathy. But how to build empathy, trust and community if we have forgotten to listen?

In the activity that follows, we will describe a listening method as a tool for community-building, thus as a tool that leads to deeper connection. This simple activity is also very powerful if we want to engage each individual in talking about a certain topic we wish to discuss or decide about.

Activity Type

Experiential / Group


5 to 10 minutes for one round. Different rounds are usually recommended.

Learning Outcomes

  • To learn how to create deep sharing through small dialogues

  • To practice deep listening

  • To experience intimacy and friendship through deep sharing and listening


Required Materials and Tools:

  • A room with enough space so that people can freely move. Meditative music for the walking-part is fine, but not necessary.

  • A Cymbal or a Singing bowl - if that’s not available, any bell or wine glass and spoon will do.

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Make sure that you have an even number of participants. If you have an uneven number, a co-leader needs to participate, or you as a leader need to participate.

  2. Ask the group to walk around the space. First without contact with each other, after a few minutes ask them to make eye-contact with the people they are meeting. At some point ask them to stop in front of another person. Make sure everyone has found a partner.

  3. Ask the pairs to start a small dialogue with the following instructions:

    This dialogue is an exercise in deep sharing and deep listening. It follows clear rules, please follow these rules. The facilitator will tell you the question that you are asked to share with your partner. Speak from your heart, and share what is really important to you. There is always one person who asks the question and then only listens and one person that shares about herself/himself. The person listening shall just listen attentively, please don’t give comments, interrupt, ask questions, just listen to what the person in front of you wants to share. Be attentive, show your interest, but don’t give any comments. If the person has nothing else to say, just stay quiet and wait if there is anything else that should be said. To be silent together can as well be a very intense moment.

    The facilitator will ring with the cymbal (singing bowl etc.) after 2 - 4 minutes. Then it’s time for the first person to stop talking, and both thank each other for what has been shared and for what has been listened to.

  4. This process is repeated with the roles swapped. The person that was speaking now asks the same question to the partner. And the people that listened before are now the ones answering. The same rules apply.

  5. Examples of questions:

    1. How do you feel at the moment? What is going well in your life? And what's not going well?

    2. One experience that has disappointed me in these last weeks / in our group.

    3. One great experience in these last weeks / in our group.

    4. What has most moved you during the last week?

    5. What are you most proud of?

    6. Tell me something about our relationship that I didn’t know yet.

    7. Tell me something important about yourself that I didn’t know yet and that could be interesting for me.

    8. Tell me something about yourself that you think I would have never thought about you.

    9. What’s standing between us? What’s separating us and what’s linking us?

  6. The challenge is to ask a question that is not so intimate that the people just refuse to answer or are uncomfortable to answer, but that moves them to show something that they haven’t shown before. Only ask questions that you would be willing to answer freely in a small dialogue with any of the group-members yourself. In the privacy of the dialogue, people will usually dare to show a little more than they usually do if they are asked in a big group. This is a very important ice-breaker to create deep communication.

  7. It’s helpful to give a clear order as to who starts. For example: the older person asks the younger person; the person with the longer hair asks the one with shorter hair; the shorter one asks the taller one. Funny instructions (“The one with the brighter smile”) can help break tension.

  8. Keep the time, and ring after 2 - 4 minutes. Tell the group: Now it’s time to stop this wonderful sharing, finish your thought and then be silent. Give thanks to each other for creating this moment of sharing. Then switch roles and the other person speaks.

  9. After another 2 - 4 minutes, ring again and tell the group to end the conversation, thank one another, find a way to say “Goodbye”, and to start walking through the room again or ask them to go to their chairs.

  10. If you do several rounds with different questions - make sure that you finish with a positive question.

  11. When back in a circle with the whole group, ask the participants: “How was that for you?” It’s not necessary for everyone to share.


  • How did it feel to ask the people to ask intimate questions?

  • What would have been your answers to the questions?

  • Will you repeat this method?

  • What questions will you will ask next time?

Instructions for Submission

Submit a written experience of the activity. Instructions on 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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