“Not everyone has the time, money or interest in professional counseling.  These listening and speaking practices hold enormous benefit in their inherent authenticity and confidentiality.  This could be a powerful tool.  Not in place of, but to compliment any other support choices.”


Listening (and Speaking!) skills

 Why practice listening?

  • To learn more about how the other person is feeling and thinking, to allow the other person to feel understood and accepted by you, to hear our ourselves in the other person, or to support the other in resolving an issue by allowing it to simply be heard.  It creates a unique conversation where truth and authenticity happen, with no judgement, pressure or change required of the speaker.


Steps to practicing listening:

  • Make time so you can really listen.  Stay relaxed, and at ease, send a message you are really there to listen.  Focus completely on the speaker.  All other distractions away (phone off/computer/TV/pets)  Make eye contact, as much as you are able, without making it uncomfortable for either of you.  Breathe, relax, and allow the experience to be perfect as it happens.  Nothing to fix or change about the speaker.


When we commit ourselves to these practices and authentic communication, over time we find ourselves:


  • being kind and sensitive
  • being responsible for ourselves (our feelings and needs)
  • being open and available to listen
  • being flexible and willing to communicate more freely


How to use this for your classroom, with staff and teachers, family, peers…friends!

First, read through this entire document, and watch the related orientation videos (on the Communication page) , then;

  • Create a dyad (two) or group of 3 or more who are interested in practicing these tools.
  • Establish appropriate agreements and confidentiality for all those participating.  Agreements and Confidentiality- We agree to a set amount of time, in an agreed upon space (or by phone/online), and the space is clear of interruptions, and exclusive to just those participating.  Everything shared in the agreed upon time and space is strictly confidential.
  • Use either freeform/stream of consciousness download/debrief/decompression, OR, explore a topic from personal assessments/surveys.
  • You might find a natural sub-group evolve from this process, or it organically develops around shared experiences/concerns; injuries, sports, divorce, chemical sensitivities, to name just a few. Many of these individuals will already utilize Take a Breath recordings for additional support, or request we record a new one!


Try This! - Co-listening, an awesome opportunity to connect.
Co-listening is a mental clearing and relaxation process in which the speaker can experience a ‘verbal meditation’ which creates self-awareness and clarity. An opportunity to Breathe, Relax, and Allow- all foundations of the Take a Breath for Schools practice. It builds a new healthy pattern (brain repatterning) of speaking and listening in which we can all benefit. Co-listening is an experiential process of bonding; it is not counseling. We think you will learn to enjoy it!

1.      Start with a minimum of 3 minutes each (longer once you get the hang of it). Select a quiet spot. One of you be in charge of the time.
2.      One person agrees to be the speaker first, the other person is the listener. If you feel comfortable doing so you may choose to sit close together facing each other.
3.      The speaker can choose to keep eyes closed during the co-listening experience. This can allow relaxed attention on the practice and keeps the distractions at a minimum.
4.      Speaker then begins to speak, not filtering any thoughts or feelings, merely allowing a stream of consciousness to flow as they speak. The words do not need to make “sense” or follow any order. Co-listening is a clearing, a releasing stream of consciousness process. Speaker continues until the listener calls ‘time is up’. If the speaker stops the flow of words, and just rests in silence, the process still continues for the full agreed upon minutes.
5.      There is no processing, interpreting, problem-solving, analyzing, helping, sounds, touching, discussing, or judging during or after the co-listening process by either partner. As the listener you are practicing simply being there, allowing this special time and space.
6.      When speaker’s time is up, simply switch to the other speaker and listener.
7.      At the end of the exercise, notice the effect of this exercise on your body, breath and emotions. Thank your partner! Agree that everything said is private and in confidence. There is nothing to discuss afterwards unless one of you asks for practical help and support around a specific issue that came up. Otherwise, separate and go on with your day.

The Conscious Dialogue

The Conscious Dialogue is another key tool of communication.  The point of this tool is to really listen to each other, and ‘to get’ each other’s worlds.  One person decides to speak first, the other person designated as the mirror.  The first person expresses a small amount of information, and the other person mirrors him or her back:

The listener/mirror says: “What I hear you say is _________” and voices what they heard the speaker say.

Afterwards, the person who is the mirror says: “Is that it? Have I got it?”

The speaker makes any corrections or additions to the mirror’s reflection.

Then the mirror says:

“Is there more?”

The speaker delivers another piece of communication.

The mirror repeats it back.

This process is done until the speaker is completely finished.

Then the mirror becomes the listener, with roles reversed.

Remember: the point is, not to change your partner, but to receive and understand his or her world!

Blocks to conscious listening

Practice noticing your own Listening Skills!  Do you have some habits in listening that block your ability to be objectively supportive?

Comparing – when you or the other are always trying to assess who is smarter, more competent, more emotionally healthy. Some people focus on who has suffered more, who’s a bigger victim.  We can’t let much in because we’re too busy seeing if we measure up.

Mind Reading – when you are not paying much attention to what is actually being said.  Instead you are trying to figure out what is meant – paying less attention to words than to intonations and subtle cues in an effort to see through to the truth. If you are a mind reader, you probably make assumptions about how people react to you. e.g. 'I’ll bet that she’s judging me for being overweight' or 'I’ll bet he thinks that he’s better than me because he has more degrees than I do'.

Rehearsing – when you don’t have time to listen because you are rehearsing what to say. Your whole attention is on the preparation and crafting of your next comment. You have to look interested, but your mind is going a mile a minute because you’ve got a story to tell, or a point to make. Some people rehearse whole chains of response: “I’ll say – then he’ll say - then I’ll say” and so on.

Filtering – when you listen to some things and not to others. You pay only enough attention to see if somebody’s angry or unhappy or if you’re in emotional danger. Once assured that the communication contains none of these things, you let the mind wander. Another way people filter is simply to avoid hearing certain things – particularly anything threatening, negative, critical or unpleasant. It’s as if the words were never said - you simply have no memory of them.

Judging – when you prejudge someone as stupid or crazy or unqualified and you don’t pay much attention to what they say; you’ve already written them off. Hastily judging a statement as immoral, hypocritical, fascist or foolish means you’ve ceased to listen and have activated a knee-jerk reaction. A basic rule of listening is that judgments should only be made after you have heard and evaluated the content of the message.

Being Right - when you will go to any lengths (twist the facts, start shouting, make excuses or accusations, call up past sins) to avoid being wrong. You can’t listen to criticism, you can’t be corrected and you can’t take suggestions to change. And since you won’t acknowledge that your mistakes are actually mistakes, you just keep making them.

Dreaming – when something the person says suddenly triggers a chain of private associations. Your neighbor says that she has been laid off and in a flash you are back to the scene where you got fired for playing cards on those long coffee breaks. And you’re gone, only to return minutes later as your neighbor says, “I knew you’d understand, but don’t tell my husband.” You are more prone to dreaming when you feel bored or anxious, but if you dream a lot with certain people, it may indicate a lack of commitment - to knowing or appreciating them - or that you don’t value what they have to say very much.

Identifying – when you take everything a person tells you and refer it back to your own experience. When they tell you about a toothache that their experiencing, you’re reminded of the time you had oral surgery for receding gums. You launch into you own story before they can finish theirs. This is  when everything you hear reminds you of something that you’ve felt, done or suffered. You’re so busy with these exciting tales of your life that there’s no time to know the other person.

Advising - when you are the great problem solver, ready with help and suggestions. You don’t have to hear more that a few sentences before you begin searching for the right advice. However, while you are cooking up suggestions and convincing someone to “just try it” you may miss what is important. You didn’t acknowledge the person’s feeling, honor their process or support the innate wisdom to emerge.

Sparring – when you argue and debate with people. The other person never feels heard because you are so quick to disagree. In fact, a lot of your focus is on finding things to disagree with. You take strong stands, are very clear about your beliefs and preferences. One subtype of sparring is the ‘put-down’. You use cutting or sarcastic remarks to dismiss the other person’s point of view. A second type of sparring is “discontinuing”; discontinuing is for people who can’t stand compliments.  “Oh, I didn’t do anything – what do you mean?” “I was totally lame!” This basic technique of discontinuing is to run yourself down when you get a compliment. The other person never feels satisfied that you really heard their appreciation.

Derailing – when you suddenly change the subject.  You derail the train of conversation when you get bored or uncomfortable with a topic. Another way of derailing is by joking it off. This means that you continually respond to whatever is said with a joke or a wisecrack in order to avoid the discomfort or anxiety in seriously listening to the other person.

Placating – “Right…Right… Absolutely… I know… Incredible… Really? When you want to be nice, supportive. You want to be liked. So you agree with everything. You are placating rather than tuning in and examining what’s really being said.

These tools- Co-Listening, Conscious Dialog and watching for Blocks to Listening can be foundational changes in your relationships and community.  Give them a try!

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