This next lesson that we're gonna focus on, is about practicing active, engaged listening. Which is a huge part of being empathetic and inclusive. Just like you just did, acknowledging people, and listening to them. So this first exercise we're gonna do is called, sounding board and Kimberly is gonna take us through that.
Yeah, thank you. So we call this sounding board, and this is our first exercise that really, leans into this idea of how, we are an active, engaged listener. A lot of the time, especially, I feel like when we have our phones, or all these distractions, it's easy to sort of, listen to someone. So we don't necessarily 100% put ourselves, into listening actively engagedly, listening to someone. And often, when we're listening to someone, we're sort of waiting for them to stop talking, so that we can talk. Which is sort of listening, but it's not listening to what you're saying, it's listening for you to shut up. Right. So that I can begin to speak or I can share my age...
nda. And sometimes, that's what we gotta do, that's the position that we're in, but we really want us to have this ability, to think about how can I be with someone, really be with them in that moment, put everything else aside, and just listen to what they're saying. So I would love to get, I think we're gonna do this with volunteers, yeah?
Can we have two, our first volunteers of the morning, can we have two people come up here with us please.
You know you'll be up many times, so you might as well start.
And actually I'm gonna move our stools out for them, is that all right?
It's gonna be Gerald and Heidi.
Sammy can you grab your stool, I'd love for them to be able to sit down.
Oh how beautiful.
Take some stools.
I love it, the power people. I want you guys to sit.
Make sure you face out a little.
Well we'll adopt that for a second. So I'm gonna explain this to you. And then I'm gonna ask you guys to face each other.
So the way that sounding board works for us, is that one of you and it doesn't matter who it is, is gonna share something with the other person, and I want it to be something real, that you're really thinking about, maybe that you're really spinning on, right. So something that really is on your mind, and it can be big or small. For me, here's something I keep thinking about, is my mom lives really far away, and I'm worried about her aging, and being so far from me, and how hard it would be for me to get to her. So when I say that sentence, "I'm worried about my mum being so far away, "and aging and it's hard for me to get to her". What's the word that stands out for people in here? In that sentence, what do you hear me say?
Worry, so you would reflect that back to me, you don't have to get the word right, you're not giving me therapy, you're just really listening, and whatever stands out for you, is the right word. And then so you will tell me, "Worry", and then I might say, "Worry". "Yeah I am just spending a lot of time worrying about it, "But I haven't, I don't really know what to do. "I don't know what action to take". What word stands out there?
Action. Yeah, "I don't know what action to take, "So I wonder what I can do, like I wonder who I go to, "and I wonder how I get help, it feels overwhelming". So the idea is simply listening to the other person, and really listening and then just giving them a word back. So if I'm the person sharing, I'm gonna try to follow that same thread, right. So I'm not gonna introduce necessarily, new issues, new problems, it's really just an opportunity for me, to say what I'm feeling to feel heard, and for the other person to just be there with me, and listen and not worry again about getting it right, or saying the right thing, you might do this exercise with a different person, and they might hear different words. So it's really just about us being together and listening. Do you have any questions?
Which one of you has something that you'd like to share?
I'd like to be the sounding board.
You'd like to the listener.
Yeah, I'd like to the listener.
Great. Why is that?.
I just feel like that's how I feel this morning, I just wanna ... yeah.
Great, way to know that, I love that. Great, Heidi, do you have something, that you would be willing to share?
Great, so I'm gonna step over here, so I'm out of the way. But I'm here if you guys need me, I got you.
Face each other.
Face each other yes, we wanna really pretend we're not here, ignore the cameras and the people.
You know Gerald, I have been thinking about, taking a trip to Italy, and I am planning it but I'm not really sure, on the month that I should plan, and really go, because I want to involve, other people in this plan, with some of my friends.
Taking a trip and you're not sure.
So give her, try to give one word back. Just try to give one word back.
Sure, not sure. Sure.
Sure that's fine.
Unsure, yeah. Well I don't know, because I don't really know much about the area, and I don't know what is the best month, and you know it's my first time, and I'm going to be inviting my girlfriends to go with me.
How do you feel about that?.
I'm a little nervous.
Yeah. There's a lot of different personalities, that are coming, I'm not a night person, my one girlfriend likes to stay up until 1:00am, so if we're all going to be staying in the same room, there might be three of four of us.
Yeah, how do you feel about that?.
I wonder if I'm going to get any sleep?.
Yes. And there's one of us, that are a little bit more controlling than the other. Cathy likes to sort of plan things, and take charge and then another one, likes to drink a little bit more, so I don't know how the personalities, are going to work together.
And how do you feel about all those personalities?.
Yes a little nervous. I'm really thinking that, you know it's a big expense, going across the country, and going to Italy and experiencing it, and drinking wine, I really, I don't even know how to begin.
How to begin.
Yeah, how to even plan.
Okay we can stop.
I wanna go on this trip with you. Thank you for doing that. I got involved, and was happy to listen and realized, Oh right I'm in charge of how long this takes. How did that feel, just to try to listen for one word?.
It felt good. When it's action oriented, and there's lots of plot, what I wanna do is, I wanna like say a couple of words. Like.
You know ... as a listener, I start forming, interpretations in the moment.
And so I'm like, you're afraid of disappointing, your friends. But I didn't wanna put that on her.
Right, because we're not doing therapy.
Right, we're not doing therapy. I wanted her to say it, or you're feeling you know, each friend has very different needs, each of her friends is very different, how do you make the whole group happy, and how do you plan this trip.
Right, so we start sort of projecting those feelings, so I love that you started doing, what my site coaching, which was, "How do you feel about that?".
Right, but once she gets to feelings, it's so much easier.
It's easier to reflect, because that's what we do a lot, right, we sort of tell a story, and it's sometimes hard for us to even know, what we're feeling. So when someone says, "Oh how do you feel about that?", it was so lovely to see Heidi, you kind of pause and go, "I feel nervous". Because that's the thing that we're after, right, is not the story or the plot, it's the feeling of how can I just see you feel nervous, and validate that, yeah I hear you say you're nervous. Right. How did it feel to just share that?.
I liked the projection, of being able to discuss something with someone, and I mean I could tell he was listening,
Absolutely, how could you tell?.
I didn't feel judged. Well it was what he was responding back, he was validating. Definitely validating.
So really just saying that one word, or asking you questions, that weren't agenda motivated, that really were, "How do you feel?",
Right, not can I fix this, which a lot of times we wanna do right, we hear someone talk and we go, I know how to fix this. I know what to do. And I know a lot of the times, I know when I'm speaking to someone, sometimes I just need to share an idea, I just want to vent something. So I do have friends that there are times that, when we're talking to each other, we'll even say to each other, is this, do you want me to help fix this, or do you need me just to listen? And that can be a great use of this exercise then, to say to someone, "Great I just wanna, "I just want you to listen to me". And then have someone say, "oh how do you feel?, "Oh I hear your nervous". Yeah.
Something that I have learned recently, is that when I ask questions, I get so interested, in what someone else says, and that some people interpret questions, as attack.
A challenge, yeah.
Or a challenge.
But really it's just me caring. So sometimes I'll do the same thing, which is like, do you want me to just hear you right now, because I hear you, or do you want me to try to solve. Or I'll say let's pause for a second, I have a few questions but it's out of caring, and because I wanna understand better, and I wanna hear you better. And so I'll say, may I ask a few, because just by setting up that, it like makes them so much.
Trying to frame it yeah.
But it is nice just to sort of talk, and have someone say like a word back, or ask how are you feeling, or whatever. And sometimes we get through that whole story, and we feel better just having said it to someone, and sometimes, we'll solve it ourselves, just by someone saying, "oh I hear you're nervous", and then you're like, "I am nervous, "Yeah, what am I nervous about?. "Maybe I shouldn't do it that way". Right. So just having someone, just my sounding board, I just need a board, I don't need an interpretation, I don't need anyone to do any work for me, but just let me talk and reflect back what I'm saying, and what you're hearing. And it can be so helpful and so useful. Thank you for sharing that.
Thank you. I hope you have a great trip, if you go.
Sounds great. Let's give them a round of applause. From the audience, what are your thoughts about that?. What are your, I saw heads nodding, and there was a lot of empathy happening, from the audience even. What are some of your thoughts, or things that you noticed about that exercise?
I can see that Gerald was really listening, and so I was trying to listen as well, and I think as you were both mentioning, we so often wanna fix things or, so it's sort of a different mode to be in.
And so you know, I know I need to get better at that mode, so I could see how you have to just consciously, move into that different gear.
Yes, this is what I'm doing now, I'm just listening. You said I could see that Gerald was really listening, how could you see that, what were some visual cues.
His eyes, even from some of our earlier exercises, the whole body, acceptance.
So body language was open, there was eye contact.
We've all been with people, who are basically shaking their heads, and not listening to us, so you could see that.
But didn't he stay calm the whole time, right, and just was very present, I didn't feel like, you were trying to make it about you, or he wasn't trying to take it over, he was just really like, "I got you, I'm listening", right. And there's something that is special about that, and the fact that it feels surprising to us, I think is a great reminder of how rarely, we give that to people but also how rarely, we receive that from people. And this is really valuable, we've talked a lot about different ways to use this, so if you're looking for ways to use this, we've talked about how interesting it would be as a manager, to have a conversation with someone, about how they're feeling in their position and your job. Tell me how you're feeling, maybe that quarterly check-in, that yearly check-in. Maybe we do a little sounding board, and you've set it up so it doesn't feel weird, if all you say back is "Nervous", they're not gonna know what's going on, right. So we definitely need to set it up with someone, but there are ways we can say, "Hey, I really want you just to talk to me, "and I'm going reflect back just a word that I hear, "and I'm gonna start writing those words down", and we might get a track record then of, "I feel nervous, I feel scared, I feel worried, I feel", whatever. And we might start to see those words, forming a really clear picture of that person's experience. Right. Or we might see them say, "I feel happy, I feel nervous, I feel worried, I feel excited", and then we can start to track, "Oh what is it that makes you feel excited?". Just a really different way to be with someone, and to listen. What do you want to add to that?.
I don't think much because exactly what she just said, is what we do, you know I've taken this exercise, and used it as someone who manages a team, within our organization and it's really helpful, because I am someone who has a fixer, problem solving personality, a lot of people do, but this has helped me be a better listener, where I'm not trying to always pick things and solve them. And it's also helped me in my relationship with friends, and my wife as well. I think I'm always so empathetic, that I want someone's problem to go away, that I wanna solve it but that's not always why, someone comes to you and this is a great exercise, for people that have that type of personality.
Yeah, well said.
Shall we keep going?. Oh yes.
I think it's really a way to help the person know, that they have the solutions within themselves, if we really listen and I have to remind myself, to do that too. But most people are very resourceful, and when things are running around in your mind over, and over again, you don't get a chance to lay it out, and be listened to and then there's much more opportunity, to resolve it oneself.
And that can feel really empowering right, to solve it yourself and know that you've had the answer, all along, right, yeah.
It's such a gift.
It is a gift yeah.
And for anyone that wants to try this at home, besides being able to pull aside a friend or a loved one, to practice this with, you can also do this for yourself, you can just listen to yourself, and write down a word, after speaking for 30 seconds or so, or if you wanna put a little technology into it, you can speak, record it, and then listen to yourself, because you do need someone, it does feel good, to have a person really looking at you, and listening and speaking back, but as Olga just said, you can find the next step, I don't wanna say solution every time, because sometimes things don't get resolved, but you can do this on your own, and it helps you listen to yourself. What are you saying, how are you saying it, oh, you just repeated that same emotion six times, or you contradicted how you felt, you said you were very happy but also very angry, like why did you say both at the same time, and really hear yourself.
Great, thanks for sharing that.
Kimberly is the Director of Learning at Speechless and a driving force behind their training programs, curriculum, and processes across the globe. She has been a main stage company member of <a href="http://improv.org/" target="_blank">BATS Improv</a> since 2006, is a professor at<a href="https://www.cca.edu/" target="_blank"> California College of the Arts</a> &<a href="http://www.act-sf.org/home/conservatory/summer_training_congress.html?gclid=Cj0KCQjw3MPNBRDjARIsAOYU6x-muyHi1fCRij0szEk9l_GS_XPIrWZnIr2wzCTwtWYTFqGbNC6eJfsaAtwPEALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds" target="_blank"> ACT’s Summer Training Congress</a>, and is a producer of the<a href="http://sfimprovfestival.com/" target="_blank"> SF Improv Festival</a>.<br/>
<span style="background-color: transparent;color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">Sammy is the Co-Founder and CEO of</span><a href="http://www.speechlesslive.com/"><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);background-color: transparent;"> </span><span style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204);background-color: transparent;">Speechless</span></a><span style="background-color: transparent;color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">, a startup based in San Francisco that produces live comedy shows and learning experiences that use improvisation techniques to make public speaking more fun and less scary.</span>