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Active Listening: The 5 Second Rule

Learning to listen is a difficult skill to teach. On the surface it appears to be a passive activity. It is the reflection portion of the listening activity that might need enhancement. Here is a group exercise that will strengthen your team's ability to listen. The 5 Second Rule. After a person speaks, everyone must count to 5 (5 seconds) before anyone speaks. If you wish to speak next, you must physically count on your raised hand via fingers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Practice this a few time, counting slowly (maybe extend it to 10 seconds if there are lots of fast counters). If two or more people raise their hands to speak next, then they (not the group) decide the speaking order. This pause in the immediate point, counter-point might allow the conversation to become multi-perspective, rather than percussive-discussion, like a ping-pong match. Most teams will expand their views and learn to be inclusive during dialogues with this technique. When multiple people want to speak to a point, a visual indicator of this, the raised hand, reminds the group that a discussion point has multiple perspectives. Expanding the number of speakers in the dialogue will reduce the myopic effect of a two person debate of the topic. Some Exceptions to the 5 Second Rule. If there is a facilitator in the meeting or group discussion, they should have an exception to the rule when they are using their facilitation skills to make process notes, points of order, make know violations of working agreements, etc. Direct questions from one individual to a named individual may be excepted from the rule. However, be careful, people will game this rule to turn the dialogue into a few person debate. See the facilitator exception.


Anonymous said…
I can already see the tempo of the pulsing blood vessels at the temples start to slow. This really needs to be coupled with a technique to limit filibusters; the tendency of some people to dominate conversations by speaking while barely pausing to breath. I've used a 2 minute warning. A raised hand automatically starts a 2 minute timer.

Another rule I've tried is if more than one person is waiting to speak, the one who spoke least recently gets the turn.

The limitation of these helpful techniques is that they mask the underlying problem. The desire to be understood is rarely offset by an equivalent desire to understand.
well, but the goal is
What technique would be recommended?