Try This Listening Exercise

by David Tillman

In our seminary Grief and Loss class, we did the following listening exercise.  It has changed my life. During the exercise, I realized I had been listening to others all my life to ultimately trying to fix the situation I was hearing about or figuring out which one of my stories I wanted to share that was related to what the person was telling me. Turning off my need to fix or share my story has made me a better listener and made life simpler for me. Here’s the details of the listening exercise. I hope you learn more about how you listen to others.


Create small groups of three people. Allow space between groups as best you can. There are three Rounds – each person takes a turn being the storyteller, listener, and observer. The storyteller and listener face each other and observer sits to one side. The Observer is the timekeeper.


All three rounds should take thirty minutes or less. You may want to take a 5 minute break between rounds to stretch, to absorb and reflect on your previous round, and take restroom visits. 


Step 1: Storyteller:  Share a story of your childhood, an event, an adventure, or a vacation.

For two minutes or less share about: (You can change the order you share about the questions below or even leave something out of the story.)

 Who was there?
What did you do?
Where and when did this happen?
Why did you do this?
How did you feel about it at the time? (anger, joy, fear, etc.).
How do you feel about it as you are sharing this story now?

After Storyteller has shared their story:     

Step 2:   Listener recaps the details of the story they have heard and about the 
                non-verbal body language they have seen. (1 minute)  

Step 3:   Observer shares their observations (1 minute)
                 Briefly about what was said, what was not said (content of story), non-verbal 
                 body language, and what feelings were underneath the words (sadness, anger, 
                 gladness, fear, etc.). 

Step 4:   Storyteller shares about their experience (1 minute)
                How was this experience for you? What did you learn? 

 Go to the next Round.


© David Tillman, 2020,, all rights reserve