I had read about the think and listen technique in the past in a PDF document that I had stumbled upon online. It was a technique used in meetings aimed at community building and working collaboratively for activism.
I then later set out to try it out during delivering a training session about productive meetings. The think and listen technique turned out to be a great success. I used it once again during delivering another productive meetings workshop to a different group of participants with tremendous results. I then started using it regularly during my training programs for various things.
Here is how the think and listen technique works:
- Have participants seated in a continuous circle or U-shape.
- Go in turn giving each participant a number in sequence starting from #1. Start with participants on your left side.
- Ask participants with odd numbers to raise their hands.
- Now ask those with even numbers to raise their hands.
- Ask those with odd numbers to turn their chairs slightly to the left side and to look to their left sides.
- Ask participants with even numbers to turn their chairs slightly to the right side and look to their right.
Participants will find themselves being paired with one another! They will start smiling and speaking to one another.
Now explain to them how the think and listen technique is carried out and the benefits of doing it such as practicing the all important listening skills.
- Now ask participants with odd numbers to start speaking to their colleagues about a specific topic you had specified.
- Participants with even numbers must keep completely silent and only listen to their colleagues.
- This can continue for 2 minutes.
- You then ask participants to switch roles allowing participants with even numbers to speak, about the same topic, while those with odd numbers must now listen while keeping silent.
- After another 2 minutes, you signal to participants to stop speaking.
A fast round of go round should follow the think and listen activity. Each participant in the circle takes a turn to select and mention to the whole class one and only one of the many points he had just mentioned to the colleague he was paired with.
An optional step would be to write down what participants are saying in points on the flip chart. You can even ask one of the participants to do the writing. If one of the points is repeated, a check point can be added next to the point that has already been written. When the round of go round has finished the technique now has completed.
The think and listen technique can be used for a variety of purposes such as collecting problems facing participants at work, gathering their expectations at the beginning of the training or asking them to state what they would be doing differently at work having attended the training.
Where else other then meetings and training sessions do you believe the think and listen technique can be successfully used?