This is a part of the Creative Problem Solving Toolkit (2023).
Use to foster generous listening and sharing within a group setting.
This is a facilitation technique.
Can be used as a stand alone tool.
What and Why?
Three-way listening is a technique that promotes generous listening and sharing in a group setting. It involves dividing participants into groups of three and assigning them specific roles. The speaker is given a prompt and shares their thoughts, while the generous listener attentively listens without interruption, judgment, or the need to formulate a response. Their sole focus is to be fully present for the speaker. The scribe takes notes, capturing the essential points and highlights shared by the speaker. Each round consists of the three participants rotating roles, ensuring everyone gets a chance to be a speaker, a listener, and a scribe. After completing the three rounds, the group members come together to share the insights and outputs generated during each round. This exercise encourages active listening, authentic presence, and meaningful exchange of ideas within the group.
Use this tool if you want to:
Foster generous listening and sharing within a group setting.
Enhance active listening skills and create a safe space for expression.
Encourage empathy, understanding, and open communication.
Promote collaboration, teamwork, and the appreciation of diverse perspectives.
Facilitate the generation of insights and collective learning.
A. Sequence of Steps and Time Allocation (~45 minutes)
Debrief the activity:
Invite the group to share what they experienced as a result of using this technique
B. How Groups Are Configured
This activity can be done with a group of any size.
Divide the large group into smaller groups of 3.
C. How Space Is Arranged and Materials Needed
Unlimited number of groups
Seating for small groups of 3
Flip chart paper for capturing “What we know” and “What we wonder”
Poster/ Flipchart sheet describing the three roles in this activity.
Tips and Watchouts
When selecting prompts for a 3-way listening activity, it's important to choose prompts that encourage meaningful and personal responses. Here are some types of prompts that work well for this activity:
Reflective Prompts: Ask participants to share their thoughts, experiences, or emotions related to a specific topic. For example: "Describe a time when you overcame a significant challenge and what you learned from it."
Future-oriented Prompts: Encourage participants to envision possibilities and share their aspirations or goals. For example: "Imagine your ideal career five years from now. What does it look like, and how would it make you feel?"
Values-based Prompts: Explore participants' values and how they manifest in their lives. For example: "Discuss a value that is important to you and how it influences your decision-making process."
Problem-solving Prompts: Present a hypothetical problem or scenario and ask participants to share their ideas for solving it. For example: "If you had unlimited resources, how would you address a pressing social issue in your community?"
Personal Growth Prompts: Encourage participants to reflect on their personal growth or learning experiences. For example: "Share a moment when you stepped outside your comfort zone and how it contributed to your personal development."
Open-ended Prompts: Provide a broad question or statement that allows participants to explore various aspects of their thoughts or experiences. For example: "What does success mean to you, and how has your definition evolved over time?"
The key is to choose prompts that resonate with the participants and prompt them to share authentically. The prompts should encourage self-reflection, personal insights, and meaningful dialogue among the participants.
Riffs and Variations
Modify the activity for pairs instead of groups of three. Each pair takes turns in the speaker, listener, and scribe roles. This variation allows for more focused and intimate sharing, fostering deeper connection and understanding between two individuals.
The 3-way listening activity is based on the fundamental principles of active listening, empathy, and creating a safe space for open sharing. While the specific originator may be difficult to trace, the technique itself has been influenced by practices such as reflective listening, dialogue circles, and other group communication methodologies.