Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Heeding the Call: A Program on Justicemaking for Junior High School Youth

Activity 1: Are You Listening?

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Leader Resource 1, Listening Instructions, has six instructions. Make enough copies of the resource to give half of the participants an instruction. Cut the instructions apart.

Description of Activity

Youth explore the importance of active listening as a conflict resolution tool. If the group did Activity 4, Nonviolent Communication, in Workshop 3, remind them that the group explored non-violent ways to talk. In this activity, they explore ways to listen.

Introduce this activity with words like this:

Truly listening to each other is just as important to justice work as speaking in non-violent terms. You may have heard of techniques like active listening or deep listening. The goal of these techniques is to encourage the listener to focus solely on what the speaker is saying, not to think about their own response. When we listen to each other with open minds and open hearts, we are better able to understand and empathize. We become more aware of the other person's situation and, if we are at odds, we have a clearer understanding of what will be needed to cooperate if we have the courage to do so. Listening to and understanding people with different perspectives can enrich our lives when we learn from the experiences of others.

Divide participants into two groups. Instruct Group 1 to think of issues they believe are the most important and urgent challenges facing humanity. Ask these members to sit in chairs scattered around the room with one empty chair facing them.

Pass out one instruction to every member of Group 2. Explain that Group 2 will take turns sitting in the empty chairs and listen to the members of Group 1. One facilitator will be timekeeper and announce when members of Group 2 must move to a different chair (about every 30 seconds), until every member of Group 2 has had a turn in every empty chair.

Then switch roles and have Group 2 members pass their instruction card to someone in Group 1 and repeat the exercise with Group 2 members remaining in chairs talking about issues that are important to them.

When Group 1 has finished rotating, have everyone holding an instruction read it aloud. Lead a discussion with the following questions:

  • Could you tell who was really listening to you? What did the conversation with that person feel like? Invite youth to share real-life experiences when they have felt listened to.
  • How did it feel not to be listened to? Invite youth to share experiences when they have not been listened to.
  • What are the tools of active listening? (Maintain eye contact, no interruptions, keep an encouraging facial expression, use positive body language)
  • How do you think active listening works as a conflict resolution or peace building tool? What spheres of influence in your life could be impacted with active listening?

Tell the group that later in the workshop, they will explore other ways to encourage conflict resolution and help build peace.