Active Listening

One of the agile games I play with my teams is meant to help encourage active listening. As the quote above states, most people are not listening to understand but to reply.

The game that I utilize to help people change to active listening is called “Fortunately/Unfortunately”. In this game, which I believe started in Improv, the team builds a story. The first person starts with a “fortunately”, such as “Fortunately my wife is pregnant”. The next person needs to be actively listening and then responds off of that statement with an “unfortunately”, like “unfortunately, it’s not with your baby.”. The story keeps building with alternating “fortunately/unfortunately” until it gets back to the originator, or goes around a few times.

This technique helps the team to have some fun and gets them into the habit of active listening.

I had a team that exhibited all the wrong ways of doing this exercise. After I started with “Fortunately my wife is pregnant” the next person stated “Unfortunately the Raptors are out of the playoffs”, and the following person said “Fortunately you like kids”. Both people were not listening to what the previous person said and had their own agenda or thought out reply already in mind.

A couple other positive outcomes come from this game. The first is embracing the silence. If you are truly engaged in active listening there will be a definite pause after the previous person finishes speaking. Silence is fine.

Another outcome is the unspoken agreement to let each team member complete the task on their own. Very rarely does a turn come to a member and have another member speak up and interrupt with their own idea. Each team member is able to come up with their own solution in their own time.

Try this game at your next team gathering. It will really help highlight why we need to be actively listening in our meetings, and in life in general.

1 Comment

  1. Gonna try this with one of my teams, where they’re always cutting each other off. Great exercise. Also, I should play this too, with them… 🙂

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