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Often both parties are so determined to win an argument that they don’t listen to the other person and don’t consider the other’s arguments. Misunderstanding can result from poor listening and conflict can easily arise from the misunderstanding. The following exercise will focus on active listening and choosing your words carefully.
Overview: Groups of 2 discuss topics and are only allowed to react by directly picking up prior arguments of the other side and not allowed to use any negative conjunction words.
Goal: Improve active listening in discussions.
Find words that will be forbidden to use during the discussion. Those should be words that could easily undermine or disrespect the other person’s opinion.You may also think about words to use instead and to connect the other person’s argument with your own. Make sure the words are visible for everyone.
Examples for controversial topics:
What’s better: Car vs. Train
Should domestic flights be allowed? Yes vs. No.
Should ride sharing offers replace public transport? Yes vs. No
Should repulsive photos on cigarette packaging be mandatory? Yes vs. No
Should yearly flu vaccines be mandatory? Yes vs. No
Should Zoos be disestablished? Yes vs. No
Suggestions for forbidden words:
Suggestions for connecting words to use instead:
I see your point
What do you think about the perspective that…
Another aspect I’d like to add is
Prior argument: “I think zoos should still be allowed, because of the educational effect of seeing animals.”
Don’t react: “I disagree because you could also use Virtual Reality.”
Instead say: “I agree that zoos are extremely important for educational purposes and that seeing animals helps kids relate. Therefore I think Virtual Reality is a super technology to replace zoos in that aspect.”
Reflect how you felt during the discussion: After all the discussions are done everyone has 5 minutes to write down
How they felt during the discussion
What they might have noticed
Whether it was hard / easy to them and why
Example“During this workshop we were able to experience how those discussion skills – active listening and awareness of choice of words impact a discussion. It might have been a realization how frequently we tend to use certain words without thinking about how they might feel or further impact the discussion. We can learn from this experience and try to actively implement those skills and techniques in the future.”
Didn’t go as expected? Check out the following tips.
People can’t think of any argumentsSometimes people just need a little input to think about new arguments. If they find it really challenging to find any, somebody else can give a little input to start with. If it is still too challenging, maybe choose another topic for this team.
Someone is really unhappy with their topic / the side they are supposed to take due to personal beliefs.Make sure they feel respected in their personal beliefs and either switch sides with the partner or change the topic for this team.
During the discussion they (unintentionally) break the rules and get frustratedRemind them that this is an excercise and that it is common to realize how frequently we use certain words during discussions. It is not necessarily about the quality of arguments but about practicing how we interact with each other during discussions with a difficult topic or conflict situation.
The discussion gets heated and looses focusInterrupt if necessary to remind them that this is not about the argument / topic itself but about how to react to the other’s arguments without being disrespectful or insensitive. Also point out that they had to take a side which does not necessarily have to reflect their personal opinion.