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The various forms of communication included:

  • Body language;

  • Vocal - using instruction and intonation;

  • Modelling - showing by doing;

  • and specifically, with our hands, through touch, gesture and manipulation.

Like last week, there was an experiment to help illustrate and bring the experience of how it is to listen and be heard. I’ll share what we did below, but it will be a bit tricky to set up for yourself. Instead, you can think about how it feels if you find yourself in either of the situations and reflect on what kind of listener you would like to be.

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Experiment in Listening

Before starting, think about something from your life experience that is significant to you and which you are willing to share. It could be something joyful or something difficult. Talking about something ordinary won’t do - instead think of something that has strong meaning for you.

Find a partner for this exercise. You will have a piece of paper each with an instruction on how to listen. Here is what they say:

1. Please listen to your partner as if everything they are saying is truly important to you. Don’t interrupt, don’t try to fix it or make it better.

2. Please listen to your partner but occasionally look away, change the subject or allow yourself to become distracted in some way.

You don’t know what your partner’s piece of paper says.

Decide who is going to speak first and who will listen. Begin by sharing your story with your partner. Keep talking until you feel you have said what you wish to. When you have finished, swap roles without talking about your experience in between. You will have a chance to share when you are both finished.


We had time for some discussion about the experiment when it was finished. People shared how difficult they had found it to listen to someone’s story without giving full attention, as well as noticing how, with the little ones nearby, it was easy to accept inattention when being heard.

As with all the experiments we do, there is no right or wrong experience. If you weren’t able to be with us in the room, any questions or reflections on your own experiences of listening or being heard are very welcome. Please put them in the form below.

And if you were there and have had any Aha moments since, please do share them for everyone.

Ps. Please remember, there are never any silly questions - just questions that someone else is also wanting to ask.

Here is a link to a blog post I wrote a while back, which also gives a brief outline of what today was about.

Finally for this week, I read out the transcript from the video clip below. It’s a great conversation starter. I hope you enjoy the animation and can share it with your nearest and dearest.

Homework - If you feel inclined, please use your notebook again to record your observations about the experiment, to reflect on how it might change your view of yourself as a listener, and to make notes about anything that strikes you as you go through your week.

Here is the clip of Brené Brown talking about empathy vs sympathy.

These pages are private and for course attendees only. Your comments and queries will come directly to me and I will only share what I have permission to share.

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