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Are we really listening?



Peaceful coexistence and communication


Age group







instruction sheets, paper, pencil



  • to cultivate active listening skills
  • to enhance the ability to distinguish between violent and non-violent communication
  • to promote non-violent communication between group members


The facilitator divides the participants into two groups. The members of the first group are requested to think about the most important issues facing humanity today that require immediate resolution. They sit next to each other, and they all have an empty chair facing them.

Each member of the second group gets a different instruction sheet. Possible instructions are:

– Make eye contact with the speaker every 5 seconds. At the same time, whistle continuously while s/he speaks.

– Look at the speaker in the eyes every 5 seconds. Every now and then, yawn.

– Never look the speaker in the eyes. Keep your gaze fixed on a corner of the room.

– Slouch in your chair, look mostly at the floor and look very little at the speaker. Close your eyes often, as if you are falling asleep.

– Every few seconds that the speaker speaks, shout loudly “No way! What are you talking about?” or “What is this nonsense?” etc.

– Look and listen attentively to the speaker. When you agree with something the speaker claims, smile and nod your head. Maintain a polite expression on your face, no matter what you hear. Make a note of points you would like to comment on once the speaker has finished.


Ask members of the first group to make their case in 1-2 minutes, with members of the second group listening and reacting in the way indicated in their instructions. After the members of the first group have finished, members of the second group reveal what instruction they had.

The discussion can address the following questions:

  • Which reactions indicated that the listeners were listening?
  • What might have been the feelings of listeners and speakers in each case?
  • In real life, when do we feel that someone is listening to us and how do we feel when he / she doesn’t?
  • What are usually our reactions when we are not listened to?
  • Why is it important to listen to our interlocutors?
  • What are the elements and the preconditions for ensuring an effective communication?    

In our daily lives, do we really listen? Under what conditions are we more effective in terms of our communications? What results does this bring? 

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