“Listening is the most important and most underrated leadership skill today.” – Otto Scharmer, author of Theory U and MIT Senior Lecturer.
Sometimes, when talking with my friends, I hear a story that reminds me of a similar experience I once had, and I have the urge to start sharing my own story immediately. Recently a friend told me a story about a problem she was going through; I immediately wanted to give her advice so we could start problem-solving together.
In both of these examples, I wasn’t a good listener. I stopped listening to my friends and started thinking about my own story or about the advice I wanted to offer.
Often, when people we have an intimate relationship with share their experiences with us, they don’t want advice. They want to be seen and heard, and validated in their feelings.
Practicing and building our listening skills is a lifelong journey. Listen For… is a way of honouring the stories we hold within us and a way of deeply listening to other people’s anecdotes. It helps us build connection and intimacy while offering us a space to reflect on our experiences, no matter how small. When playing, you’ll listen to stories from a particular lens that helps you to step out of your usual ways of thinking and listening.
Listen For… helps us move past “downloading” and “factual” forms of listening to go deeper into “empathic” and “generative” listening.
Here’s what a typical game might look like.
- One person pulls a “Check-in” card. Each person playing will respond to the same check-in question one after the other. This first round helps us get a sense of how everyone is showing up and warms us up before diving deeper.
The Listen For… game includes four sets of cards; check-in, storyteller, listener and check-out.
2. (i) Next up are the story rounds. One person agrees to be the first Storyteller. They choose a “Storyteller” card. Everyone else will be a Listener and chooses a “Listening” card.
(ii) The Storyteller will tell a story by following the prompts on the card they pulled from the deck. Everyone listens without interrupting.
(iii) After the story is finished, the Listeners share what they heard through their listening lens. Avoid giving advice or asking follow-up questions. Instead, offer the storyteller what you heard directly or indirectly through the lenses you picked. You can even ask a question for the storyteller to think about or share an image that came to mind.
(iv) The Storyteller hears what the Listeners share back in silence. This can be hard! But waiting until each person has spoken avoids falling into conversations and helps us discover if there are any patterns in what’s being said. Only after all the Listeners have shared does the Storyteller have the floor to share any insights they gained and what they learned about their story.
Simple as that! Repeat step 2 until everyone has a chance to share a story.
3. Last step, pick one “Check-out” card. Read out the question, and each person responds to the same check-out question to close the game.
A game where everyone wins!
Playing Listen For… helps us reconnect with ourselves, strengthen relationships and build a new community. These authentic exchanges facilitate well-being in that we leave the game experience feeling properly listened to and heard. We feel accepted in who we are as multifaceted individuals.
It offers us a fresh perspective. By using listening lenses, we open up new avenues in our brains and see things in a new light. We learn more about ourselves in unexpected ways and gain deep insights from those who listen to us. The more you play the game, the more you develop vital listening skills to live a more connected, meaningful and sustainable life.
The Listen For… game builds skills and competencies for human inner growth and development determined by the Inner Development Goals (IDG). These skills are necessary to reach Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and create a thriving future for our planet and all of its inhabitants.
Listen For.. is part of an impact research project linked to inner development and leadership skills.
Where can you bring the game?
Listen For… is adaptable to a multitude of contexts. At Percolab, we used the game to talk about our work, our team and our individual needs and desires. We often use story themes to help us unpack tricky topics such as conflict, finances, mental health or redefining our business’s vision.
This game helps us take a moment to reflect on minor everyday occurrences that are often overlooked. There are several ways to play the game; you could bring it anywhere, from a weekly dinner party to your company’s yearly strategy meeting.
We created the game from 15 years of applied action research within Percolab and with our clients and community. Listening is often underestimated as a leadership skill, but it is one of the most important. To better face and overcome the multiple crises we are currently experiencing, we need to become better collaborators, and this starts by strengthening our ability to listen actively.
Discover more: www.percolab.com/listenfor
Come play! Join a Listen For… community game. They take place online every month in English and French: www.percolab.com/event
Reach out: If you want to inquire about bringing Listen For… to your events, team meetings or community gatherings, contact us at email@example.com